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5 Tips to Boost Your Networking Skills

Whether you find exciting or intimidating to meet new people, networking is a fundamental aspect to career success. Here are some tips to create long-lasting connections.

Networking as a word might sound new, but the concept of it has prevailed in the corporate world since its beginning. Nowadays, the act of networking goes beyond than exchanging business cards or connecting on social media; it’s about fostering genuine human connections that transcend the confines of an office space, which is what makes it so valuable for career growth.

Certainly, people with stronger networks usually end up with higher salaries, yet the main appeal of networking is that it allows you to interact with industry peers on a personal level, creating a rapport that goes beyond mere professional transactions. Building these relationships within the industry you admire offers an invaluable advantage, allowing you to be recognized not just as a colleague, but as a person with shared passions and goals.

Contrary to common beliefs, successful networking isn’t only for extroverts. It’s not about being the loudest in the room, but rather about being genuinely present and open to connecting with others. Also, there are spaces built solely for networking (i.e. events, LinkedIn, among others.) which eases out the awkwardness of attending an event on your own since all attendees share a common purpose: to establish meaningful connections and explore potential professional collaborations. This shared goal creates an environment where everyone, no matter how reserved or outgoing, find a space to engage in fruitful conversations.

In this article we’ll delve into tips and strategies to expand and maintain your professional network. These insights will help you navigate networking scenarios with confidence so you can gain connections that can significantly impact your career. Whether you’re new to networking or seeking to enhance your existing skills, these practical tips will pave the way for creating useful, long-lasting connections in your industry.

Reach Out to Your Dormant Ties

In her Harvard Business Review article, author Amantha Imber talks about how reaching out to “dormant ties” (i.e. people from your existing networking who you haven’t seen in a while) is a great way to network without necessarily having to talk to strangers. Dormant ties already know you, which makes them more likely to share industry insights and creative advice compared to a brand-new connection.

Reaching out to a connection out of the blue might be challenging, but the benefit of contacting dormant ties is that it can be done online, which alleviates the uneasiness of in-person meet-ups. The beauty of online interactions is its capacity to provide a comfortable platform for rekindling connections. A simple, genuine message such as “hey, how have you been?” serves as an excellent icebreaker, and it will pave the way for transitioning from casual catch-up conversations to more professional discussions.

Think Outside of Your Industry

A networking strategy that is often underrated involves expanding beyond your immediate industry to connect with accomplished peers whose work and expertise spark your interest. Engaging with people outside of your field gives you a fresh perspective and opens doors to diverse opportunities.

For example, consider renowned collaborations such as Red Bull and GoPro, Louis Vuitton and BMW, or Starbucks and Spotify. None of these companies share direct ties in their offerings or even cater to the same audience but, surprisingly, these unconventional partnerships have been incredibly successful. This success is the product of the initiative taken by their corporate representatives who connected with their peers and came up with strategies that introduced their audiences to whole new experiences that blended both brands.

These alliances are great examples of companies stepping beyond their traditional networks to create something innovative and mutually beneficial. While these people might not operate within your professional ecosystem, their insights and experiences can be very insightful. Also, these connections hold potential for developing long-term corporate alliances or even helping you make a change in your career track.

If you are unsure of where to find these people outside of your industry, social media is the key. Platforms like LinkedIn, X, and professional communities are a great way to engage with professionals from all kinds of backgrounds. Initiating contact can be as simple as following their updates, engaging with their content through comments or shares, or sending a message expressing your admiration for their work. Additionally, if you come across a business article or publication that features their name, it’s a proactive move to add them to your network. Remember, the more diverse and expansive your network, the greater the potential for unexpected collaborations in the future.

Attend Networking Events

A classic way to meet new peers who, at the same time, are interested in meeting you, are on a networking event. These events not only help you meet people from your industry who have the potential to be long-lasting relations for future professional endeavors, but they are also a great way to hear from industry leaders who you would never meet in regular circumstances.

Navigating social situations might seem challenging, but the author Amantha Imber, as mentioned earlier, shares useful advice on mastering face-to-face networking. According to Imber, in big groups, there are smaller clusters of about three people, which she calls “islands.” Usually, one of the members of these islands is not part of the conversation and is looking for a conversational partner, giving you a chance to start chatting. It’s better to begin talking with just one person in these clusters instead of joining a big group, where you might not have the opportunity to speak or to build meaningful connections.

If you don’t feel confident joining in-person networking events, there are several online options that can be as effective. Whatever you choose, it is highly recommended that you don’t shy away from the opportunity to join these events, as they can be the place where you meet a new industry leader, a potential business partner, a hiring manager, or even your next mentor.

Connect With Your Alumni Association

Joining your alumni association is often underutilized but has a lot of potential. For starters, these associations usually host networking events for members, but they are also a place where you can find experts in very specific career fields that, otherwise, you wouldn’t have the chance to meet.

Connecting with people who attended the same institution as you is an amazing conversation starter, and it can lead to new job opportunities, career advice, and potential collaborations. Also, these associations are a great way to hone your professional skills as they also host workshops, seminars, and mentorship programs where you can either learn new insights from your industry or recruit potential candidates for your company.

Maintain Your Network to Build Sustainable Relations

Creating and maintaining a professional network is not a one-time thing but an ongoing task. By consistently investing time and effort, you can lay the groundwork for future collaborations, resource sharing, and potential opportunities that can help both your career and your company’s success.

Some good ways to ensure you stay relevant to your network is by regularly posting updates on professional networks like LinkedIn. A simple, monthly LinkedIn post serves as a gateway to interact with your network. From sharing articles to a comment on someone else’s post, this tactic is a way to stay present in the professional realm with very little effort.

Moreover, the efforts put into cultivating your network don’t just benefit you individually but also extend to your company, and even to your broader network. Make sure to express gratitude and be as much as an asset like your peers are to you by sharing valuable content, industry insights, or relevant opportunities. Remember, genuine connections are likely to last longer.

The best way to ensure your networking effort bear fruit is by physically storing their information and ensure it is up to date. Even though a phone’s contact list might initially serve this purpose, investing in a professional database software is highly encouraged, especially when such contacts can serve to larger groups like departments or entire companies.

Connectia acts as a fusion of a traditional contact list and a social network where users can send contact requests to their peers, granting the recipients complete control over the information they wish to share. With Connectia, recipients can input or edit the contact details they wish to share, ensuring requestors always have access to the most current and relevant information about their contacts. This setup empowers recipients, granting them the freedom to determine and manage the extent of information they want to share publicly, while also helping requestors to always keep their network up to date.

In the end, the outcome of good networking’s can transcend individual success, since it can help you grown professionally but can also play an important part in long-lasting partnerships for companies. Embracing the importance of networking will require skill learning and constant effort, but its value will help you build an ecosystem of collaboration and professional advancement.

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