How often have you heard there is an art & science to networking?
Your #1 ongoing career development priority should be networking because these interactions and relationships will open doors for you personally and professionally. Let’s look into why and how proper networking can enable you to find exclusive career opportunities, better market your company or personal business, and develop meaningful connections with fellow professionals.
Why We Network
Job Hunting - Connecting with professionals and recruiters in your field can expose you to new job openings before they’re officially posted.
Learn Something - Discover opportunities to develop your knowledge and skills from educators and services via a broad network.
Solve a Problem - Share a problem or question that others in your network may have experience with and insight into.
Provide a product or service - Create a large potential audience for sharing your own products or services.
Social Interaction - Find like-minded people to engage with regarding common interests, hobbies, or subjects.
You can use the tips below for any of the points above! Let’s get started…
First, you'll want to target the right individuals on LinkedIn to add and engage with. How do you find the right people to grow your network?
Understand the basics of building the right type of network.
Define who you need to network with from a priority perspective: recruiters in your career's domain, senior executives at companies you esteem, or colleagues in your field that are active online.
Search by the role of people in general or through the company standpoint that you’re targeting, review profiles, look at their activity, and focus on LinkedIn premium individuals. Prioritize people with "We’re Hiring" profile photos and those active on LinkedIn or Social channels.
Know the Why
Why would you need or want this person in your network?
Are you seeking knowledge from them?
Do you have an idea to share with them?
A prospective collaboration?
Research whether this is the right person to connect with.
Understand their background and find where you both have commonalities.
Check to see if they are actually active on LinkedIn or other social networks.
Do you know anyone who knows them that can make an introduction for you?
What will inspire this person to want to connect with you?
Is it your background, your passion, a project you’re working on, or your motivation to learn?
Use that point to leverage and highlight within your message invite.
The info above will help you frame a personalized invite and set the tone for meaningful interactions.
Second, once you've found and connected with individuals to grow your network, take those acquaintances and develop valuable relationships with engaging interactions and authentic communication.
Building Connections & Community of Support
Find engaging ways that you can interact with them personally.
Explore their other social channels: LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, YouTube, etc.
Look through their network and see who they’re interacting with.
Leverage the power of asking questions and listening, and paraphrasing.
Regularly engage with them by liking their posts, plus meaningfully interacting with them in comments and sharing their posts when compelled. Be interested in what they have going on before trying to be interesting to them. This is a way for them to recognize your name and feel valued.
ADD VALUE - Starting with a thoughtful comment to a post, and in time provide valuable introductions between colleagues from within your network.
Understand peoples' WHY they do things and find at least one way you can assist them.
If they aren’t actively sharing, check out their company's LinkedIn page or website to see what initiatives they are posting about, and use those as icebreakers in DM’s.
Determine who in your network they may be connected to, as a way to get a direct referral of support. This may take some time to get someone else to support you enough to do this type of intro.
Move conversations from comments to DM’s to:
Texts, Mobile Calls
Zoom/ Video Calls, Coffee Chats
Developing meaningful Relationships
Here are tips for communication strategies to strengthen relationships within your network.
Use Pre-Call plans for every meeting to be prepared and have engaging topics to discuss.
Show them you appreciate and learn from them.
Highlight them in a post, blog article, or as a leader in their field.
Look beyond their LinkedIn profile, resume, and position for personal interests or organizations they're involved with.
Recognize individual characteristics, position/seniority characteristics, and organizational characteristics to treat them properly.
Research issues, concerns, and trends to have prescient, relevant topics in conversation.
Know examples of their success to inquire insight into their strategy and philosophy.
Specify your agenda for calls/emails: I.e., Solve a particular problem, gain insight into a specific trend, present a collaborative project, etc.
Have you developed the critical questions you hope to get answers to?
What are the questions you should be prepared for that they may ask?
Find ways you can add value to the person & organization.
Express Gratitude! - Provide thank you emails, unique spot-light posts about them, and handwritten notes when the timing is right.
In conclusion, networking is all about putting yourself out there in a sensible, strategic manner. Establishing good relationships with colleagues and like-minded professionals could result in finding the career opportunity of a lifetime or gaining a lifelong friend. We have never had access to today's online networking resources, so let's use them to our advantage!
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