Does hearing the word “networking” send a chill down your spine? It might evoke the image of crowded hotel conference rooms and asking strangers to help you land your next job – ick. At Careerstone, we believe that networking is actually about building meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships before you need them. You can establish these connections in ways that don’t come out of an introvert’s nightmares.
Whether you’re a young professional or you sit at the executive level, mastering the art of networking is a crucial part of advancing your career. Opening yourself up to new connections might just unlock a whole new world of possibilities and inspire you outside of the workplace.
Cultivate an enjoyable and stress-free networking experience by:
1. Determining your “why.”
With the endless possibility of events to attend and people to connect with it can feel daunting to figure out where to begin with your networking journey. We love the practical and actionable advice outlined in J. Kelly Hoey’s Build Your Dream Network, especially around creating a “why” filter.
You’ll want to start by determining your goals. What do you want to accomplish by networking? Maybe you desire to learn about new career paths, build stronger connections with your peers, become a thought leader, or find new opportunities. Once you narrow that down, you can create a plan of action and make choices that align with your goals.
2. Starting with people you already know.
You probably network more than you think you do! Anytime you interact with your colleagues, college friends, or pottery class pals, you’re creating connections. Start by tapping into that existing network. Tell the people you know about your career goals and aspirations. They might be able to put you in touch with someone in their network and make that initial introduction less intimidating.
Consider reconnecting with former bosses, coworkers, or classmates, too. Reaching out to someone you lost touch with will likely be easier than cold messaging a complete stranger. You could send them a message on LinkedIn to let them know that you’re interested in reinvigorating your network and would love to catch up with them over coffee.
3. Attending online webinars, events, and conferences (especially free ones!)
If in-person networking events aren’t your jam, you’re in luck since there are so many opportunities to connect digitally. No matter what industry you work in, you can find virtual conferences or webinars to attend to broaden your skillset and meet new people. CreativeMornings offers free virtual FieldTrips every week spanning a wide range of topics. These types of events provide an opportunity to learn and engage with others through breakout rooms or even just the chat feature.
Take your networking efforts a step further by posting on LinkedIn about the event you registered for and then sharing takeaways from it after you attend. Be sure to tag the host and speakers when you post to expand your reach! By sharing free valuable information, you’ll open space for a conversation with your current network and other professionals interested in similar topics.
4. Leveraging social media platforms.
Social media is a place to, well, be social, and certain sites (like LinkedIn and even Instagram) serve as powerful networking tools. Be sure to set your LinkedIn profile up for success by uploading a professional headshot, adding a brief yet compelling headline, writing a summary with keywords that highlight your personal brand, and including relevant experiences and achievements.
After you create an engaging profile, start using LinkedIn to build relationships and share knowledge. Spend a few minutes interacting with other people’s content every day. Write articles or publish newsletters directly on the platform. Connect with professionals in your industry or people you want to learn from. Be sure to include a personalized note when sending a connection request.
You might also consider using Instagram for networking purposes. This could be a more casual and personal way to connect with people. First, conduct an audit of your current Instagram profile or create a new one for networking purposes to ensure a professional (yet still genuine!) appearance. Follow the accounts of thought leaders or people you look up to, engage with their content, and even send a friendly, personalized direct message to open the door for an interaction with more depth.
5. Making a habit of keeping in touch.
Now that you’ve reconnected with old contacts and formed new relationships, it’s time to maintain that connection. The type and frequency of contact will depend on the depth of the relationship. Liking, commenting, or resharing their social media posts might be enough for longtime casual connections, while sending a thoughtful message or scheduling meetups works well for newer relationships and those with more depth.
Consider creating a schedule for keeping in touch with your network. Maybe you allot 10 minutes every day to connect with colleagues or make a goal of contacting three individuals a week. If connecting with people out of the blue feels awkward, you could always use the holidays as an excuse to get back in touch.
Expanding your professional network should be fun and rewarding – not the bane of your existence. If you want support in honing your networking skills so you can build a robust network of colleagues and peers, learn more about our Networking Matters or Personal Branding sessions here!