5 Networking Tips to Achieve your Goals
With the New Year fast approaching, we find ourselves reflecting on the past year. We acknowledge our progress and achievements while also recognizing our perceived failures and regrets. Sometimes it can be difficult to reflect back on our year and realize that we are not where we wanted to be at this time. The New Year gives us the opportunity to start again and we set New Year resolutions so that we can reach our goals before next year.
Many of our resolutions are the same as previous years or are the same as everyone around us. These resolutions are typically related to health, making progress in ones career, or financial wealth building. Few people think outside of this box. But maybe it is time to try a new resolution, one that may improve all these areas: networking.
Networking is interacting with people in order to exchange information, resources, or opportunities. Typically this is related to careers but it can also be for personal growth as well. Networking can be used to learn about areas of interest, achieve career goals, and obtain a job or a new opportunity.
Networking is important because it is becoming increasingly more common for managers to prefer to hire people who come with personal recommendations. Knowing the right people can give you an opportunity to apply for open positions before they are made public. Some jobs don’t publically advertise open positions at all since it can be simpler and faster for them to hire off a trusted recommendation. The jobs that are higher paying or have better benefits will be more competitive. Therefore, social connections can help give that competitive edge.
A 2016 study by LinkedIn showed that 70% of people were hired at a company where they had a connection. This study found that while the majority of respondents felt that networking was important for their career success, only 38% actually maintained these important social connections. They reported that lack of time to invest in networking was the most important barrier.
However, lack of time isn’t the only barrier to networking. People often avoid networking because it is uncomfortable or anxiety provoking. Introverts in particular have a hard time with this as it entails meeting strangers and small talk. Many people simply do not know how to get started networking, where to meet people, or what the etiquette for this type of social interaction is.
Oftentimes, people expect instant gratification when networking. If one event does not lead to a useful connection or new job opportunity, they chalk it up as a waste of time and stop attending networking events. Likewise, people think too limited when it comes to their social networks. If you only seek out people within your profession, then you are missing out on a wider variety of opportunities.
In order to overcome these barriers, apply these important tips for networking:
1. Find the right people:
Identify the types of people that you want in your network and what kind of value they can provide. This should be a mix of people within your profession as well as those of outside but related professions. This may include establishing a relationship with a person within your profession, but more advanced in their career, that you can learn or seek advise from.
You may also want a person who is in a different profession but works at the company that you want to work at or who can send you referrals. For example, private practice psychologists benefit from networking with medical doctors, dieticians, and nurses who can refer their patients who need psychotherapy. While it is good to keep an open mind to meeting new people, you only have so much time in the day. Be prepared to devote your limited time to the relationships that will add the most value.
2. Know where to network:
In addition to knowing the right people, you need to know where to look to start a professional relationship. Online networking, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, are good places to start. You also want to attend in-person networking events. This may be through conferences or community events. These events may be specific to your profession or more general such as joining a Mastermind group or Toastmasters.
Although there are events for the specific purpose of networking, keep in mind that networking can occur anywhere. Maintain the mindset that you can meet someone that would add value to your career at a family function, a birthday party, or even getting groceries. Brandon Turner, from Bigger Pockets, provides a great example of this. He explains that he talked about his goal of buying real estate investment properties to an acquaintance at church one day. As it happened, this acquaintance was looking to sell his property and this lead to a lucrative deal for both parties.
3. Have a plan:
It is important to know what your goal is when it comes to networking so that you can develop a plan to meet it. Your goal may be to get a job at a specific company, to acquire a certain number of investment properties, or to grow your business enough to quit your day job.
Once your have a goal in mind, develop an elevator pitch. This is a short description of who you are, what your goal is, and why the person listening should care. As the name implies, this speech shouldn’t be longer than an elevator ride, which is 20 to 30 seconds. It should be designed to make the listener interested and able to remember you when they become aware of an opportunity that you would be interested in.
This elevator pitch should be well thought out to be clear, unique, and memorable but also sound natural. You can achieve this by getting feedback from others about your pitch and rehearsing it until you feel comfortable saying it to strangers.
In addition to the elevator pitch, you want to prepare several icebreakers. These are questions that can start a conversation. Examples of icebreakers include “what brings you to this event?” or “what do you do?” You can also simply walk up to a group and say “Mind if I join you?” Icebreakers don’t need to be fancy or even terribly interesting. They should just be a way to start a conversation.
4. Maintain the connection:
Once you have developed a connection with someone, make sure to maintain the connection whether you are actively looking for a job or not. Networking is a bit like fishing. Sometimes you just have to throw out the line and wait until you get a bite. That could be a few days or even a few years. This part can be difficult because it is time consuming and we don’t usually see a direct payoff. However, when an opportunity does arise it can pay off big time.
After an event, send an email saying that it was good to meet them or set up a time to meet up for coffee to continue the conversation. You can check in with people in your network periodically though social media, email, or phone. People often appreciate you showing interest in them and their goals so you can check in by asking how they are doing. Make sure to keep track of people and what they are up to. If your network is large, it can be helpful to do this by keeping written notes about people.
5. Add value:
Networking works because there is a potential benefit to all parties involved. Remember that people are more likely to help and remember you if you can add value to them in some way. This could mean introducing them to another beneficial connection, providing them with advise from your experiences, or providing them with a service they need. When looking for a mentor, some people are intimidating by people who seem well established. But many successful people are looking to pass on their knowledge to others who are hard working and who will make good use of that knowledge.
Although networking can seem tedious and time consuming, it is well worth the effort if done thoughtfully and strategically. Approach each new professional relationship with the perception of a possible opportunity for growth, provide value where you can, and maintain mutually beneficial relationships.