For some people, networking is exciting! It’s a time to meet new people, share ideas, learn interesting proposals, and collect contacts that might be useful in future projects.
For others, it’s akin to a doctor’s visit or watching paint dry: It can feel awkward, stilted and superficial, shaking hands with people whose names you might not remember in a few minutes and trying to feign enthusiasm for something you don’t fully get.
But networking is an important skill to develop because it can help open doors in the future, both to career opportunities and to good people who can help you out in other ways. And not all networking opportunities are the same! Whether you’re more of an introvert, shy about talking up your success or you live in a place that is kind of disconnected from the industry in which you’d like to work, there’s a way to build your professional network and make it stronger.
You can meet people without leaving your desk! LinkedIn has been around for 20 years and, from the start, has been intended as a networking tool. Make sure your profile lists all your interests in addition to your skills, experience and education, then take some time to look around and find articles, groups, topics and organizations that fit your interests. There’s so much to learn and share, and so many people to meet, just by posting, reading and commenting on articles. It’s a much nicer place than other social media platforms, and there’s a professional air to it, making it a more welcoming environment for those who dread speaking in public to people they don’t know.
Think quality, not quantity.
You want to make connections that are durable, strong, and will last with people who are going to help you make the most of your career and deepen your understanding of your field while learning new things. That doesn’t mean you need 10,000 connections or contacts; it means you need ones that are worthy of maintaining, keeping close to the people who add something to your life and your career. Seek out and connect with people who share your interests and goals. That’s what networking is all about.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
When joining online forums or networking events, don’t shy away from asking for clarification or trying to get more details about a point that sounds interesting to you. Unlike in-person meetings or events, there’s no need to feel embarrassed by raising your hand if you feel like you’re in a room full of experts. Online meetings usually provide a chat function or you can take down the contact information of the speaker and ask your question later, but written communications like this allow for natural conversations and an exchange of deeper information, often tailored to your specific questions. If you don’t have any questions, be a good, attentive listener and spend some time thinking about what you’re learning — good leaders are good listeners.
Build on your existing relationships.
Is there someone in your current job, or a previous one, that you admire? Is there someone who’s working on something you think is really interesting but you don’t know much about it or how they do their job? Why not strike up a conversation? People who are good at their jobs, especially if it’s something kind of niche or specialized, often really enjoy explaining how things work. If someone’s passionate about their job, they might enjoy the ability to talk about it, especially if it’s something that often gets overlooked. A casual work acquaintance might also become a great person to bounce ideas off of because they know the environment in which you work and, especially if they’ve been in the company longer, they might be able to help you navigate making a change. Everyone has something to learn and something to teach!
Be true to yourself.
Ultimately, you know what you want in your life and for your career. You might be instructed by your manager to build a network focused on this ability or that skill or to learn about something that just does not align with your life, your interests, or your values. Instead, focus on building a network that boosts you, your priorities and your goals. It’s great to learn new things, and maybe you’ll stumble into something that started off as something you had to do but ended up becoming something you love! Networking feels less like work when you’re learning about things that are naturally aligned with your interests. If you don’t want to go to a networking mixer at a bar, find another way to connect. If you’re not a golfer, look for other opportunities. Be comfortable and you’ll have more fun.
Looking to make a career change? See what Sterling Personnel has to offer!
Networking can feel a little superficial, sure, but like anything else, maybe a little practice or finding a different way to go about it can make things a little easier. It’s an important skill to utilize to help yourself in the long run, so try a few different methods to see which feels better. You might even find your next great career opportunity!
If you haven’t quite built up a network that might open doors for you but you want to find a new position, it’s time to call Sterling Personnel. Take a look at the jobs currently on our board and see what interests you, then submit your resume and call one of our recruiters. We’ll work with you to find a position that is a good fit for you and our clients and can even help put your resume in front of the right people. (And guess what — that’s a kind of networking!) Contact Sterling Personnel today and let’s get started.