Networking can be a vital way to build contacts and grow your clientele. No matter what you’re looking to do with your personal brand, growing and nurturing your network will help you get there.
To network like a pro, I’ve broken down the vague task of “networking” into five easily executable steps:
Step One: Get in the right mindset
I always remind job seekers to “network before you need it.” Even if you aren’t searching for a job, never leave networking until you “need it.” Networking is a process. You’re looking to create a mutually beneficial relationship between yourself and this other person – and that doesn’t happen overnight. Keep in mind that you will need to network over time, but keep in contact with those who are already in your network throughout this period.
Step Two: Sharpen your skill set
Think of networking as a gateway. Building and maintaining a network can open the door to huge opportunities for you in your job search and career. In order to reach out to new and interesting people, you need to have an elevator pitch ready.
An elevator pitch is a quick, 60- to 90-second summary of who you are, what you do and what you’re looking for. If you’re contacting someone for the first time, your elevator pitch should also end in a call to action – what are you looking to get out of e-mailing/calling this person? Would you like to take them to coffee? (Make the call to action about something you can do for them, not something they can do for you. That comes later once you’ve built the relationship.)
Step Three: Provide value
Networking is about building a mutually beneficial relationship, but when reaching out to new people, you need to provide them with some type of value. Always offer your expertise first, before asking them for something in return. Think about how you can help them succeed, so they will want to help you succeed in the future. Networking is all about creating good karma!
Step Four: Follow-up
Keeping in contact with your new connections is important to building a relationship. Just like you would follow-up to stay at the front of a hiring manager’s mind during a job search, you should follow-up with your contacts to remind them of the value the relationship holds.
Step Five: Leverage your connections
The beginning of networking is finding a common ground before asking for help. When done properly, networking can lead to pretty much anything. It’s up to you to build a relationship with these contacts, provide them with value and see if they can (or will) help you.
What else would you add?
Heather R. Huhman is a career expert and founder & president of Come Recommended, a career and workplace education and consulting firm specializing in young professionals. She is also the author of #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), national entry-level careers columnist for Examiner.com and blogs about career advice at HeatherHuhman.com. Follow her on Twitter at @heatherhuhman.