Networking can be overwhelming for many, especially if you’re not confident in your ability to do it. Dorie Clark, author and professor of business administration, tells viewers how to create real networking relationships in a fun and authentic way in her course, “Professional Networking.”
You don’t have to network with everyone you’ve ever talked to—if you’re going to network efficiently and have the energy to keep it up, you have to prioritize. Focus on the people you know and narrow it down to your most important contacts—think about people who can make a real difference in your professional future. Develop a plan to keep in touch with these people, and take time to look back and reflect on this list every three months.
You can build a meaningful connection with new contacts by talking to them with the goal of finding something you have in common, researching them ahead of time if possible to know more about their backgrounds and interests or simply asking what they’re passionate about. Make yourself useful to your contacts in ways they will truly appreciate. Introduce them to someone else you know that they might benefit from talking to or offer information and insight on a topic they care about. A generous approach to networking will set you apart.
Networking events can be overwhelming and time-consuming if you don’t think strategically about which ones you attend. Ask yourself who will be attending—focus on events where you can meet potential clients or employers or people who can refer you to those key targets. How likely is it that you’ll actually connect with people at this event? You can only network successfully if you enjoy the event. Choose which networking events best fit your interests, lifestyle and schedule.
You could also host your own event to network with multiple people at a time and add value to other peoples’ networks. Determine what kind of event you want to hold—what would you and other attendees enjoy? Choose the people you’d like to bring together. The attendees should have a common strand so they can find things to talk about. Structure the event how you’d like but make sure three things remain—welcome people when they arrive, immediately introduce them to others if they don’t know anyone there and leave time at the beginning for everyone in the group to introduce themselves.
Following up can be the hardest, but most valuable part of networking. Think back to your initial meeting or meetings with the contact and try to write down key details you remember—this can provide you with good excuses to get in touch. Think about how often you should be in touch with each key contact.
Networking builds long-term, mutually beneficial relationships. Prioritize top contacts and think about how you’ll work to deepen your relationship with that person and how will you offer value and give back? When you learn to network efficiently, it will help your business and your career.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the view of the American Chemical Society.
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