Networking is the single most important skill for a profession to develop. Period.
When it comes to your career, it really is all about who you know. A Harvard University study showed that 85 percent of the reason a person gets a job is because of networking. Only 15 percent was due to technical or job knowledge.
And yet, networking is something we dread. Many of us are simply not very good at it. But as they say, practice makes perfect. Here are five tips on more effective networking:
1. Make it a habit: Don’t just network when you “have to.” Make time for it every day. Yes, every day! Set a goal to reach out out to one person — via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, whatever — every single day.
2. Cultivate your current contacts: Networking isn’t just about forming new connections. Start by getting in touch with people you already know — former co-workers, an old professor, clients you’ve worked with, a volunteering acquaintance, etc.
3. Do your homework: One reason many of us dread networking is making that “cold call.” So, find a reason to contact them by researching what they’ve been up to. Maybe you read a blog piece they wrote, or heard that their startup successfully launched its product. A congratulatory email is much easier to write than a “cold email.”
4. Host your own networking event: Feel anxiety about attending an event full of strangers? Then start your own and invite people you already know. Host a breakfast or a happy hour with a few of your contacts and encourage them to bring others.
5. Give first: The biggest mistake people make when networking is expecting to get something — an introduction, a reference, a job offer. Go in thinking that you want to help the other person. Can you make an introduction? Can you offer a reference? Remember: Give and eventually ye shall receive in return.
When it comes to effective networking, you’ll feel less pressure by making it less about you and more about them.