No man or woman is an island — especially in the professional world. Even if you’re not a salesperson or an entrepreneur, your career will be made richer by knowing more people and having a larger circle of friends, colleagues, mentors, mentees, etc. It’s called networking, and it’s one of the most important things there is.
In a recent Business 2 Community Post titled “4 Tips for Nurturing Genuine Business Relationships,” writer Leeyan Rogers offers advice on making the most of professional dealings and establishing connections that are actually meaningful. Her first piece of advice is to “make your intentions clear.” If you’re at an industry event, for example, you might ask the person you’re chatting with why he or she is there. Even if you’re both selling something, and neither one of you is the intended audience, you probably have other things in common that will foster conversation.
“It can be interesting to learn more about a company or an individual’s background just for the sake of learning,” Rogers writes.
Tip No. 2: “help others.” If you meet someone, and by gabbing about their background and career aspirations, you learn that they really want to work at a particular company where you happen to know people, offer to lend a hand. Referrals are crucial when it comes to landing jobs, and you can always make introductions later on, via email. As Rogers writes, “What goes around comes around.”
Rogers’ third nugget of networking wisdom is to “follow up right away.” If you’re networking properly and meeting a lot of people, it’s easy to forget names and faces, but if you shoot someone a quick email the day after making their acquaintance — just a little something to say you enjoyed speaking with them at XYZ and discussing yada-yada-yada — you can schedule the next meet-up and keep the relationship going.
Along the same lines, Rogers’ fourth tip is to “keep in touch.” A good first step is connecting via LinkedIn, and through that site, you’ll be able to see when your contacts make career moves, learn new skills, or even celebrate birthdays. In situations like these, drop people a line, just to keep the relationship moving forward. Or just reach out any time of year to share an article or piece of news related to your industry.
Finally, Rogers advises that you “keep the process going.” If you never follow up, or if you only email contacts when you want something, you might come across as someone who’s operating purely out of self-interest. As Rogers writes, “people should look forward to your outreach,” and that means being in touch regularly and thinking about how you can help others in their professional journeys.