Whether you are in business, a student, or even just a parent looking for a new daycare, networking can be a tool used to your benefit. Networking is something, when used correctly, that can open up doors, lead you to the opportunity you were looking for, or even help find your new business partner.
To network means the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts, according to Oxford Languages.
While this fancy definition does do a good job of explaining what networking means, we can elaborate on what it means, how it is implemented, and the overall benefit of it.
Why you should Network
Networking is not always something you will see the importance of right away. It can be years before you start to reap the benefits of it. Networking allows you to establish new relationships which can advance your career, business, or personal life in some way. Vice versa, like every relationship, you also add substantial value as well. These relationships are valuable because while they directly may not be able to help you with an issue, or getting a job, or even how to start a new project, someone they know may. By advancing your relationships, you open up the opportunity to have access to their network, who otherwise you wouldn't know.
Other benefits are that you can gain new information through networking. By listening to what others have to say, their insight on business tactics, as well as trends within the industry you gain new knowledge. Networking allows you to have conversations with industry professionals who bring a new perspective to your ideas.
Broadening your perspective is an indirect benefit one may not be intentionally after but it is a result of networking. Hearing people who have faced differences than you as well as their perspectives gives you insight to others and how they think. While you might not always agree with everyone and their ideas, networking allows you to tackle thinking in a different way.
How to network
Networking should be a consistent thing. As relationships evolve, so will the dynamic of how you should interact will. Any good networking takes work and time. Preparing is essential in your success. Here are some tips to get you ready to mingle.
The first step would be to access your current connections. Identifying your network's strengths and weaknesses will help you understand where they can help you at. These important connections are valuable and you should treat them as such. Communication multiple times a year is key to staying relevant and on their mind. It is a lot easier to ask a favor from someone who you have had other conversations with besides just the one you need to ask something.
Continue the conversation. When meeting someone in person, while it is good to have business cards, it's even more important to get their contact information so you can take responsibility to reach out. It can be a way to reconnect and strengthen relationships. This also shows initiative which can be impressive to some. In today's digital world, connecting online is the key to staying connected. Websites like Facebook and LinkedIn have made this increasingly easier.
Be willing to provide your help, advise, or a listening ear to the other person before expecting anything in return. This is typically good practice for any dynamic relationship.
While you may not enjoy networking and establishing new connections, that does not mean you have to be bad at it. Implement these techniques to help you at your next function.
For more networking tips and tangible resources, check out Sunny Lenarduzzi, an entrepreneur and marketer who shares her tips on networking.
While networking may not be everyone's cup of tea, it is prevalent and important for most businesses. Honing in on those skills and establishing good professional relationships can increase your potential for the future. Ultimately, having confidence in yourself and your interactions are the more important benefits of networking.