Follow These Rules For More Effective Networking
Networking is an essential part of every business professional’s toolkit, but few utilize it to its greatest advantage. The Internet age has made things even more complicated: nearly everyone is available online, yet most contacts seem more out of reach than ever.
The Most Important Rule of Networking
If you remember just one thing about networking, remember this: do it when you don’t need to. If you wait until a sudden personnel opening leaves you scrambling, you’ll be forced to do the legwork of making contacts when you have the least amount of time to do so. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the best time to nurture your network is when all of your needs are met. There’s no excuse for a neglected LinkedIn profile or empty Twitter feed. Networking is lifelong.
The Second Most Important Rule of Networking
If you think networking is about getting people to do you favors, you’ve got it backwards. Networking should be first and foremost about seeing what value you can offer to other people. Maybe you had an applicant for a recent position who wasn’t quite right, but who you think would be perfect for someone else. Pass their resume along. If you come across an article on a topic a colleague is working on, send it over. Twitter is an excellent resource for keeping up to date on what your contacts are reading, studying, struggling with. What questions are they asking? If you can, answer them. Build your credibility, brand and expertise.
When it comes to making formal contact, keep it short, and don’t make promises you can’t keep. Even if you’re the one doing the favor, a five paragraph email isn’t helpful, it’s a time drain. A link to a blog post and a quick note to say “Thought you might find this interesting” is much more effective. And whatever you do, don’t say you’ll do something if you can’t follow through.
Lastly, make sure others can find you. Include pertinent key words in your profile (information security, ethical hacking, etc) and list the technologies you work with. Tweet about what you’re reading, thinking about, struggling with. Your most important contacts just might come to you.
Networking is not just for job seekers or executives with open positions, and the same principles apply online and off. Be proactive, be respectful, be brief. Add value. With the right approach, networking will be helpful when you need it, and even more so when you don’t.