The importance of networking should never be overlooked. People often say “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” and while that adage is a tad bit dramatic, it does come with a grain of truth. You can be the absolute best in your field with an overwhelming wealth of knowledge, but your professional future may never take flight if you don’t have the right minds to exchange ideas with. Great networking will help you overcome that obstacle.
If your current networking method isn’t helping you achieve the results you want, you may be forgetting some of the elements crucial to success. You can effectively expand your professional circle by tailoring your approach to your goals and making some small considerations about the nature of your professional relationships.
1. Overlooking Self-Branding Opportunities
Brands capture our attention. When brands are people, they capture our attention doubly so. Think about Oprah Winfrey – she’s both a person and a brand, and is ubiquitously recognized as both. Consistency, voice, presence, and resourcefulness have made her a household name. While it’s unlikely that your personal brand will grow to the same magnitude as Oprah’s, you can achieve strong branding on a smaller scale.
The best place to start is with your website. If you don’t have a website, then the best place to start is to get a website. Update your website with current headshots, a condensed portfolio of professional accomplishments you’re most proud of, and your resume. You can exclude jobs or internships that wound up having little or nothing to do with your current career path. This is just the beginning.
Once your website contains current and relevant information about you, start a blog. Regularly creating helpful blog posts can establish you as an authority. People will stumble upon you while searching for answers or advice on Google. They’ll recognize you as someone with answers and continue to come back. They might even share your content with their friends.
From there, expanding your professional circle is extraordinarily easy. Instead of being forced to make the effort to reach out to other people, you’ll find that other people begin reaching out to you. You might even get emails from recruiters who want to work with you based on your personal branding and the research they’ve conducted on your website.
Another advantage of having a website is that it’s easy to put it on a business card. When you’re networking with people and you hand them your card, they’ll have access to everything they need to know about you. It’s so much more robust than a social media profile, and it makes a much bigger impression.
2. Not Rehearsing or Delivering the Perfect First Impression
You may be familiar with the idea of an elevator pitch. Essentially, it’s when you successfully sell yourself in the time it would take an elevator to get from the ground floor to the top. Making great first impressions when expanding your professional circle is very similar to an elevator pitch. It needs to be clear from the beginning why you and the person you’re attempting to network with should know each other. Be friendly, but quickly get to the point.
Another part of a perfect first impression is the way you look. Even if the atmosphere of the event you’re attending is casual, don’t dress too casually. You never know if you’re going to stumble across the person who is going to change the entirety of your career trajectory. Always act as though that person is going to be at every event you’re attending.
Make sure you pass out some information along with that great first impression. If you don’t already have business cards, get some made. Include your website and relevant information. Adding special details to your business card, such as foil graphics, texture, or embossing, will make your business card a little more memorable. Hand them out as often as possible – you never know how far they may travel.
3. Utilizing One Profile for Everything
Personal and professional profiles should always be separate, full stop. Business and personal preferences can often intersect. If you make political or lifestyle posts on your personal profiles, be sure to keep those private. In a perfect world, people wouldn’t let biases affect their professional choices. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world.
You could be a fitness enthusiast, and the person you’re attempting to network with might find workout posts obnoxious. You could be on completely opposite ends of the political spectrum, and it might tarnish their image of you. Facebook knows everything about you, and you don’t want potential coworkers or investors to have that same luxury. Don’t change who you are in your personal life – just keep it private.
Professional profiles can and should be public. You want to be easy to find, and you also want to leave the door open for people to come to you. Keep them updated with relevant information and feature projects that are relevant to the kind of people you’re attempting to network with.
4. Failing to Create an Even Exchange
Expanding your professional circle effectively is a game of give and take. Ideally, both parties will benefit from the relationship somehow. Say you own a diner that serves sandwiches. Networking with someone who owns a bakery that makes buns might be wildly beneficial. You get a great deal on fresh buns from a local bakery. What does the other person get?
Consider what you have to offer just as much as you consider what you’ll be able to receive. If you emphasize the importance of professional relationships being mutually beneficial, you’re more likely to make connections that will continue to serve you well for years to come.
5. Forgetting to Follow Up
Meeting someone once isn’t enough. Relationships are ongoing – plants won’t grow without water, and connections won’t grow without conversation. If you speak to another professional and seem to hit it off, you need to nourish that relationship. Once you’ve made enough new professional connections, focus on fortifying them. Solidify your relationships and figure out how to make them productive and mutually beneficial. You can start networking again once you’ve finished networking with your first round of finds.
Once you have a system in place, expanding your professional circle will become relatively easy. Remember that the quality of connections is far more important than the quantity of connections. Focus on what you want and remain goal oriented. After that, all that’s left to handle is your progress towards achieving your professional goals.
Ariana Williams is a pedagogy graduate, a business blogger with a knack for writing, and a huge fan of self-improvement courses. Whenever she is not tutoring children or writing, Ariana enjoys learning new things about creating, maintaining, and growing a successful business. Feel free to say ‘hi’ to her: @AriWilliamsAri .