GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOTV)- Crowded rooms, stuffy job fairs, shallow encounters, forced relationships – these are just a few of the thoughts that may come to mind when you think of business networking. With every day deadlines and commitments, how do you have the time and energy to invest in networking? Though you may believe it is vital to the growth of your business or future career success, it’s easier to get lost in your personal office bubble and neglect your professional network. According to CareerBuilder, 75% of job seekers are still using traditional networking. And, Bureau of Labor Statistics solidifies that 70% of all jobs are found through networking. However, building stronger networks isn’t necessarily just about finding or filling jobs. Networking can help you and your company be more visible to clients and customers, stay current on trends in your industry, and become a source of knowledge to others about your industry. So regardless of what your networking skills are, here are five tips for building stronger networks.
Nothing Takes Place of Face-to-Face
According to Gallup, 74% of North Americans are online. And every day, more people join the billions of people across the world on social network sites. But, online interaction can’t take the place of meeting individuals face-to-face. Attend chamber events, job fairs, and conferences. These will give you ample opportunity to meet professionals in person who may work outside your normal circle of influence. Have a goal when you attend, a specific product you are looking to buy, or a vendor you are searching for and focus on asking others what products they have. Not only is it a great conversation starter, but it helps you build relevant connections.
Ask Your Co-Workers
Even if you struggle with networking, chances are some of your co-workers are experts at it. Taking the time to grow your professional relationships at work is the easiest way to build your network and networking skills. Use your already existing workplace relationships for advice on what they do to stay plugged in and ask if you could meet some of their contacts in the future.
Communicate With the Person, Not the Title
People can tell if you actually want to get to know them or if you are just trying to get something from them. And this couldn’t be more true than when you meet a high-level professional. Regardless of their title or expertise, it is vital to interact with people as though you are on the same playing field. By representing your own strengths while still respecting theirs, you are able to have a meaningful conversation with anyone.
Join Professional Organizations
Regardless of your industry, chances are there is a professional organization of like-minded individuals who meet on a regular basis. Groups such as American Marketing Association, SHRM, and PRSA are a great chance to meet people in your own field and build on your relationships. These organizations are also a great way to be more informed with your own vocation and continue to grow as a professional. Offer to serve on a committee or board to get to know others and build your leadership skills.
Interact More with Online Contacts
Though not all networking can be done online, it’s still imperative to maintain connections on social media sites like LinkedIn. Use these sounding boards as an opportunity to express your expertise in your field by linking to interesting articles or sharing professional advice. This is also a great way to connect and maintain relationships with people you’ve met while networking face-to-face.
Networking isn’t a one-time event. It is an active choice to continue to branch out, meet new people, and develop professional contacts. Though it may come easier to some, it is a skill that gets better with constant use. By using these five tips, you can be on your way to building stronger networks.
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