Networking Tips and Advice for a Professional Setting

FT Contributor
Businessmen and women networking in an office while drinking coffee.
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Networking is the ongoing act of cultivating relationships with other professionals in your industry. It’s beneficial for all, whether you’re a student looking for a part-time hustle, a business owner looking for a loan, or a professional wanting to improve relationships with difficult coworkers. Networking helps virtually anyone. From teachers to friends, family, colleagues, and even strangers, your network can consist of almost anyone.

Actively networking is extremely beneficial to your career growth. Doing so allows you to stay aware of the job opportunities that are out there, learn more about the inner workings of your industry, and cultivate relationships with other professionals that could be even more meaningful in the future.

If you want to expand your network, read on for some great tips and advice for networking in a professional setting.

Say “Yes” to Social Events

To get the right connections, you have to find them and work to earn them. A great way to do this is to make time for many social gatherings, especially those specifically hosting people in your field.

There are a number of networking events that could be beneficial to you. Career fairs are just one example. You can also find meetups for a variety of industries and topics. Network at social gatherings specific to your industry, like new business openings, industry conventions, or chamber of commerce banquets.

Regardless of the social events you choose to attend, it’s important to go prepared. Have an elevator pitch ready for anyone you come in contact with. Be sure to include information such as what you’re interested in, any relevant experience or skills you have, and what your career goals are. Interacting with the right people could broaden the job opportunities that are available to you.

In addition to having a quick pitch prepared, it’s important to dress the part. Wear business casual attire to these networking events to present yourself as polished and professional.

Utilize Social Media

Just like going to social events, tapping into your social media network may help you find connections. LinkedIn is an excellent platform where you can find networking events. From mentoring groups to special events, you’ll find a wealth of networking tools on this professional site.

Other social media platforms may also be beneficial when it comes to networking. Search platforms like Twitter and Facebook for networking events in and around your community. You might also find a wealth of virtual networking events that don’t even require you to leave the house. From there, connect with people in your industry and share relevant information.

Once you’ve made connections with people, social media is a convenient way to maintain those connections. Whether it’s posting about upcoming networking events, job listings, or personal news, social media is a great way to stay aware of what’s going on within your network.

Be Reliable

If someone in your network asks something of you, be reliable. Whether it’s connecting them with someone else in your network who is looking for a job or emailing them information about an opportunity for business funding, always do what you say you’re going to do. Answer them promptly and offer to help people out when possible. You never know what kind of favor someone in your network will be able to do for you in the future, so it’s wise not to let them down.

Keep Your Ties Alive

Maintaining your network is just as important as building it. If you let people forget about you or lose interest in what you’re doing, your network suddenly becomes of no use to you.

To prevent that, share the things you’ve got going on professionally. Be active on social media, posting relevant updates so that your network knows what’s happening in your world. Be sure to interact with your network, too. Respond to comments and share other people’s work. They’ll be grateful you did and more likely to interact with your social media activity.

You should also be active with your network outside of social media. Make plans to get together or host a happy hour to keep the relationships you have with the people in your network alive.

Give Favors to Get Favors

Scratching each others’ backs is a basic, unstated rule of professional networks. If you want to call in favors, you’ll have to provide some favors. Generally, if someone does you a favor, such as provide you with tips on how to promote your business, you should always try to return the favor.

Remember to show your appreciation when someone in your network calls in a favor for you. Send them a personalized thank you note or email to show you’re grateful for their efforts, and don’t forget to offer to help them in any way you can.

Cast a Wide Net

While people in your field will likely be most helpful, don’t underestimate how useful someone outside of your network could be. When you’re out and about, don’t be shy. Talk about what you do for a living, the current projects you’re working on or what you’re passionate about doing with your life. You never know who you’re going to meet or where you’re going to meet them.

Whether you’ve been in your industry for some time or you’re just getting started, you can never do enough networking. With the right strategy, you’ll be able to foster relationships with people who can help you advance in your career.

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