Networking is an important part of almost every modern career. It can be useful for meeting new clients, finding new job opportunities, and meeting the right candidates. Networking is also an excellent way to get your foot in the door when starting down a new career path. It can also be, however, quite daunting if you’ve never done it before.
A good way to start networking is to reach out to people you already know. Leverage your current circle of acquaintances and work on building genuine relationships with people. Often you may not know anyone directly connected to your field, but you’d be surprised how valuable your current connections can be. Ask questions and take an interest in your circle’s projects and encourage them to ask about yours. By fostering relationships now, you may be opening a door down the road.
When introducing yourself to someone new, especially when reaching out for the first time, try to communicate how you can bring value to their professional life – remember that everyone’s time is valuable. Try to understand their problems first and see how your skills and knowledge could be an asset to them and not only how the relationship would be an asset to you.
Also, know your boundaries and communicate them clearly when necessary. For example, while understanding that other people’s time is valuable, understand that yours is as well. Your time, skills, experience, and talent is valuable, and setting boundaries that work well for you is important for any relationship, a professional one included.
Finally, don’t be all business all the time. Networking is about relationship building, first and foremost. In order to foster meaningful relationships, you need to have personality, interests, and a life outside of work. While these relationships may be largely professional, remember to be yourself and create a good vibe between yourself and your connections. Networking can be an intimidating concept if you’ve never done it before, but just remember that networking is not so different from any other type of relationship building. It is about give and take, communication, and human connection.