When I first learned about the importance of professional networking, I really had no clue of what was involved. All I saw, and continue to see, are very brief interactions where basic pleasantries and business cards between two people are exchanged. Maybe you will get an invite on LinkedIn. Maybe you might say “hi” to that person on the street. No one really knows.
Networking serves a wider purpose in our lives. For some networking is necessary to get that next job, for others it could be about expanding a business enterprise. Regardless of our motivations, everyone can benefit from some form of professional networking. The bigger question we all must ask ourselves is how to achieve true tangible benefits from a professional exercise that is dependent on so many different variables. Here are a few tips that will take your networking experience to the next level.
- Lower your guard. Next level networking occurs when both parties slowly lower personal barriers and insecurities. Be willing to talk about yourself and intentions. This takes time but when a certain level of mutual trust is achieved information can flow easier.
- Keep track. Maintain a record of your business interactions whenever possible. Keep an accurate account of the individual you met with, their organization and what transpired during that interaction. You can use an excel spreadsheet or an app.
- Hold yourself accountable. When someone asks you “let’s have lunch one day”, take them up their offer. On the flip -side, avoid making empty promises and be willing to follow through on your commitments. One of the biggest pitfalls of networking is the lack of follow through. Be willing to hold yourself accountable to promises made.
- Show thanks. We live in a fast- paced society but it is important that we not overlook the human element involved. Showing gratitude to others displays grace and humility in an activity heavily convoluted with business politics. You can send a thank you card or email. Anything that demonstrates that you truly appreciate that individual’s assistance.
Everything in life serves as a specific function or purpose. Networking should be no different. If done correctly in a positive intentional manner, real long lasting results can be achieved.