Building a strong network isn’t just about who you know. It’s how you get to know them.
Networking is a key component in how we conduct business today. Whether it’s digitally through social media or in person at events, in our hyper-connected world, it’s important to build connections within your professional community. Whether you’re looking for a new role, gaining new business contacts, or looking to hire someone on your team, growing your professional network is a sure-fire way to expand your career.
When attending networking events, many people offer the same trusted advice: bring business cards, give a strong handshake, make eye contact, listen and be curious, etc. But to be a superconnector, it is what you do before and after the networking event that will make the difference.
To hone your networking muscles and become a superconnector, remember these tips.
1. Build networking into your schedule
Networking takes time and dedication. With our busy work and personal lives, networking often doesn’t happen unless we intentionally set aside time to connect. Take a look at your calendar. When was the last time you met with someone outside your company? How much time each month are you putting into developing your professional network?
Often as finance, accounting, and human resources professionals, we focus on the work in front of us. By doing so, we miss opportunities to gain market intelligence and build connections that may serve us in the future. Take the time to look around and find out what’s happening outside your company. Block out space in your schedule to meet with people outside your industry.
2. Keep a holistic perspective about networking
Many people think networking is only critical for people looking for jobs or new clients. But we know that people with strong networks also are great innovators and collaborators.1 So, don’t limit networking to just when you’re looking for a new role or want to expand your client list.
By considering networking an “always-on” campaign, you’re ensuring that you’ll have a network to tap into when you’re ready, in situations such as when:
- your company is hiring
- a friend or colleague is looking for a new role
- you need fresh perspective on a work challenge
- your team needs technical assistance on a critical new issue
With a strong network, you’ll have more resources to draw from. And you’ll be glad you made connections.
3. Differentiate yourself with follow-up
Once you’ve made a connection at a networking event, follow-up is key to building that relationship. Meeting someone once typically isn’t enough to create a meaningful, lasting connection. By following up, you will be on the road to creating a partnership with your new contact.
Follow up right away by connecting on LinkedIn within 48 hours, ideally with a personalized message. If a longer conversation is appropriate, follow up with an email and set up a time to meet. Often there isn’t enough time to dig deep into conversations at networking events.
4. Nurture your connections
Connection isn’t a one-and-done behavior. It’s a future-forward mindset, fueled by your intention to sustain a long-term relationship. This means two more steps:
- Save contact information. Business cards can get lost easily. Add all contact info to your system (CRM, email contact list) as soon as possible. Storing contact information digitally makes sure you’ll have it wherever you are.
- Stay connected. Find ways to keep in touch and bring value to the people in your network. Reach out to your connections as you come across relevant articles that might interest them or invite them to professional or philanthropic events you are attending.
Networking is a skill you have to build, much like any technical expertise. To become a superconnector, begin by being really intentional about building meaningful relationships. Start connecting now so you can grow your network and give back to your professional community. After all, it’s not just what and who you know, but also how you pay it forward.