Top Tips for Successful Networking

When it comes to building your career, networking is still a vitally important activity whether you’re happily employed or looking for that next opportunity. Connecting with other professionals over the long term is one of the best ways to learn about different opportunities and help people get to know you better so that when they’re ready to hire (or know someone who is), you will be top of mind.

While some enjoy it and others dread it, networking is one of the “must-do’s” for career advancement. You can tailor your plan to fit your personal likes and dislikes (for example, online communication vs. the pre-conference cocktail party), but it’s also a good idea to step outside your comfort zone at least a little bit – you never know who you might meet! Check out these tips for success in networking:

1. Prepare to talk about yourself.

Whether you’re going to an event specifically for networking or at a casual get-together, chances are good that your career will come up as a conversation topic. Be prepared with an idea of how you would describe your current role, educational and career history, your talents and experience, and what you’re hoping your next step will be. Having this clearly organized in your mind will help you maximize opportunities to communicate with others when the time is right.

2. Get social (media).

Participating in social media is an essential part of any networking plan. LinkedIn will likely be your primary source for professional connections online. Take the time to thoughtfully build your profile, add relevant information, and include a professional headshot. Leverage the platform to engage with others – comment on posts, follow industry leaders, subscribe to content in your area of interest, and request to connect with others in your field. Outside of LinkedIn, make sure your other public social media accounts are appropriate. Don’t publish anything embarrassing or that you would not want a potential employer to see – you never know who’s looking.

3. Participate in virtual events.

Everyone’s been to their share of in-person networking events, but with the shift to online and remote work, many business events have gone virtual. Look into the local and national organizations in your industry and see what they offer. Opportunities can range from online meetings and educational presentations to fun events like virtual trivia nights. Use the opportunity to participate and ask questions, then follow up afterward with an email to the host or presenter and anyone else you connected with.

4. Consider mentorships.

Whether you’re the mentor or the mentee, this professional relationship can open doors of opportunity and provide a priceless education on what it’s really like to work in your chosen field. Mentorship can be a confidence boost for both parties, introduce you to new ways of thinking and problem-solving, and gain insight into your chosen career field. Even if your workplace does not offer a formal mentorship program, seeking out mentorship should be part of your networking strategy as you progress in your career.

5. Follow-up and nurture relationships.

You may connect with hundreds of potential employers over the course of the year, or you may connect with two. In either case, those connections will be lost unless you nurture them!  Meeting others is just the first step. Stay connected and top of mind by sending follow-up or thank-you notes after a meeting, sharing articles online, and engaging with their LinkedIn posts. Communicating consistently will help strengthen the relationship for the long term.

Take some time to consider your professional networking plan by researching local and online opportunities, as well as preparing a few informal talking points about yourself to share with those you meet. As with anything, practice your networking skills and soon you’ll be an expert.