Sure, it’s intimidating, but networking well can help you reach your career aspirations and make plenty of friends along the way. If you aren’t sure where to start, don’t worry. There’s a wealth of networking opportunities within your reach!
Internal networking: getting to know your coworkers
Internal networking refers to building and maintaining relationships with colleagues in your workplace. This is a great way to build your reputation, get to know your coworkers, and spice up your workday. After all, who knows where your colleagues will end up? They might rise through the ranks and recommend you to their employers — or they might be the one who hires you.
There are a few tips you should know about becoming a successful internal networker. Chief among them is to be sincere in all of your interactions. Make sure you forge genuine relationships with the people you talk to. That’s much nicer than talking to people for no other reason than to advance your career.
That said, strike up friendly and inquisitive conversations in shared spaces like the break room or the elevator. Take an interest in your coworkers and how their jobs impact the workplace. Ask about their duties, projects, or goals and find common ground. Once you know a few people, start making introductions. Maybe someone you met in the elevator would benefit from knowing your desk neighbor — make it happen. They’ll both remember you for it, and you’ll become your office’s internal networking guru! Keep this up and you’ll have a healthy professional network in no time.
External networking: making connections outside of the office
If you have your eyes set on a new position, building a career network outside of your company is a great way to land the job. This is external networking — the type of networking people most commonly refer to.
The key to successful external networking is striking a balance between quantity and quality. Networking isn’t just collecting business cards from everyone you meet. It’s establishing meaningful relationships and helping one another. As a rule of thumb, strive to make a good impression on everyone you meet, but focus your efforts on ten or twenty people who can really make a difference in your career. Those are the people you should follow-up with a few times a year and strive to impress.
Of course, you probably won’t find your way into the inner circle of a big executive. That’s where getting to know promising young talent comes in. Just because someone is currently working in an entry-level position doesn’t mean they won’t rise through the ranks. Befriend people you think are going places. Not only will they provide valuable advice and motivation for you, but you’ll have a foot in the door if they ever become influencers.
How to act during networking events
Whether you’re attending business conferences or networking events, you can rest assured that other people are there to meet strangers too. Most of the attendees will be just as anxious as you are when it comes to striking up conversations and handing out business cards, so don’t be too hard on yourself. That said, there are a few best practices to keep in mind at networking events.
First, don’t work the room. Trying to speak to as many people as possible is one of the least effective ways to network. Short interactions with people tend to be forgettable, and handing out your business cards to everyone who walks by is about as useful as tossing them on the ground. Aim to make meaningful connections. Build enough rapport with others that they ask for your card. This is is much more conducive to long-lasting business relationships.
You should also share your resources and connections with others whenever you get the chance. If you hear that someone is looking for an open position in a particular industry or company, let them know about your connections or previous encounters during the convention. You might have some relevant information that could really help them! After all, that’s what networking is for.