Guide To Keeping Up With Your Networking Skills
Having a strong professional network and powerful networking skills are two key ingredients to a winning job search. But what if you aren’t looking for a new job?
Even if you feel comfortable in your current position, having a network is vital for your long-term career development and future success. All too often, people make the mistake of only networking when they are looking for a job or trying to make a sale. But networking is similar to farming – just as a farmer spends months tending to their crops before harvesting, so must you spend time building relationships before they become fruit-bearing resources.
If you’re not growing (and nurturing) your network, it is dying.
Prioritize Your Connections
If you’re looking to polish your network and networking skills, it’s best to begin by making a list of all of your current professional contacts – clients, colleagues, former bosses, professors, friends within your industry, etc. The list should include key information about each person, their contact information and when you last connected.
When you’re done ask yourself:
- Which relationships do I want to nurture?
- Who is missing?
- How much time have I put in tending to these relationships?
Once you have answers to these three questions, make a second list that includes all the relationships you want to nurture. These connections shouldn’t be shallow or superficial. The key is to focus on building genuine relationships that allow you to exchange information and ideas.
Even if your second list feels quite expansive, you should take steps each year to grow it. Consider meeting new people by joining a professional organization, volunteering locally or attending in-person or virtual industry events. You can – and should – look beyond your current circle or even your industry. Many amazing opportunities are found in unexpected places!
Building Your Network and Maintaining Your Networking Skills
While building and maintaining your network can be hard work, implementing the following tips in your day-to-day life will assist you in forming strong, authentic relationships.
- Put it on the schedule. If it’s not on your calendar, it doesn’t exist. Schedule time each week to network. And be sure to set a calendar reminder! Having a regular reminder will help keep your professional connections high on your priority list.
- Branch out from social media. While it is good to make connections online, and posting and commenting on others’ posts does help keep you top-of-mind, don’t rely on social media for all of your professional networking. Everyone is inundated with notifications. You’ll make an impression if you connect over the phone or send a letter via snail mail.
- Reach out. You should be reaching out to each person in your network several times a year. Something as simple as a personal e-mail sharing an interesting article or upcoming webinar can help nurture your relationships. While most reach outs will be brief, it is also important to take the time for one-on-one interactions. Consider scheduling the occasional virtual coffee date or inviting someone to join you at an industry conference to build deeper connections.
- Focus on giving instead of receiving. Have you asked yourself how you can help those within your network? Networking is about giving and taking, so be sure to identify ways you can help others. You may be able to help others expend their networks, write letters of recommendation or share job leads. Taking small steps to help your contacts shows your value as a connection, which in turn helps you stand out from the crowd.
Don’t overcommit. While it is important to schedule time to connect with and expand your network, overcommitting will eventually lead to burnout. You shouldn’t feel overwhelmed or depleted by your professional obligations. Make sure to set healthy boundaries so that you can nurture the connections that are important to you.
Professional networking isn’t about schmoozing – it is about showing your authentic self while developing and nurturing trusted relationships. If you put in the time to nurture your connections, you will be on your way to creating a strong network with mutually beneficial relationships. You may even uncover unexpected opportunities right where you are.
Bottom Line Summary:
Building your network and nurturing your professional networking skills is essential even if you aren’t actively seeking a new opportunity.
However, if you are actively looking, LeadUp’s Resume Toolkit can help you land your dream job. Sign up today!