Networking is a long-term investment, something I didn’t quite grasp when starting my professional life. Oh, I remember getting the age-old sayings, it’s who you know, not what you know. Or the classic, you should be networking consistently. So I did, I added a networking event every month to my calendar. I collected the business cards and passed them out, and nothing came of it in the end. I did not understand that networking is not building a collection of cards or showing up at every event. So I stuck to it for a year with nothing to show for it because I was going through the superficial motions but with none of the intent or patience networking requires.
It wasn’t until later that I understood what networking is. Networking is investing in and cultivating relationships with the people around you. It’s remembering who does what and recommending them when someone else needs them. It is genuinely caring about the people you meet and wishing them to succeed. It is helping out without an expectation of a return. Networking is slow work; it’s the work of years, not days or months. It is slowly building a network of people you can collaborate with, help and support. A network like that is not made by passively collecting business cards, that step one. Building a relationship will be different for each person but worth the effort.
Now all of that might seem as vague as you should network more, but there are some solid strategies to help you out.
- Try to remember two people from each networking event. Remember what you talked about and if possible, figure out a way to connect with them after the event. Whether that’s coffee, recommending them to someone, or a follow-up email is up to you. As you consistently go to events, you’ll start to recognize more and more people.
- If you believe that the people in your network do good work, recommend them. Tell them about opportunities. People appreciate it when you remember them.
- If possible, and people in your network would be able to collaborate, introduce them to each other.
- Be patient; as I mentioned earlier, this usually takes years, although you get lucky every once in a while, and it happens much faster. People I got to know and network with years ago are just now becoming people I can collaborate with or clients.
- Make connections both in and outside your industry. People outside your industry will bring you opportunities and connections that might not be common knowledge in your industry. Connecting in your industry is a little trickier. The people you might be connecting with might be your competitors today but your collaborators tomorrow if you took the time to build that relationship.
Please check out our biweekly networking event, Key Contacts, if you want to network. Find more info here/