Most people don’t start seriously networking until they need their first job – or a new job. The truth is they should have always been networking. One of the biggest mistakes people make is to stop networking once they find a job, or when their company is flourishing and they feel comfortable. Because if an issue arises and they suddenly find themselves unemployed, they’ll have lost touch with much of their existing network.
Networking needs to become an everyday habit. You never know when you may need a helping hand from one of your contacts. Companies are constantly evolving and if your network of contacts is always growing, it will help you to keep up and stay relevant in your field.
Opportunities for networking are all around you. Of course there are dedicated networking events, after work cocktail parties, conferences, and all sorts of meetings. But there are opportunities to make connections in every tweet, post, message, and comment. Here are a just few of them.
Every email you send (well, almost every one…)
According to a recent Radicati report, the average number of business emails sent and received per user each day totaled 122; by 2019, researchers estimate, that number will rise to 126. Now instead of griping about that number, why not think of those emails as networking opportunities?
What does your email signature line tell your recipients? Does it tell them not only how to reach you but also what you do? Send yourself an email and think about how it looks from the perspective of a recipient. Would you like to talk to that person on the basis of the signature line alone? If not, change it to make it more pertinent.
Your LinkedIn profile: keep it appealing with updates
Even the most polished, professional profile on LinkedIn only tells part of your career story. To use LinkedIn to its fullest, you don’t just treat it as a directory. Tell your connections what’s on your mind and show you’re thinking of them by sharing regular updates, whether with articles you’ve written yourself or news items you’ve found interesting, or even just congratulating a colleague on a business win.
You should also use updates to cross-sell your colleagues’ talents and promote the services of vendors you trust. Nothing deepens connections like reciprocity.
Your professional (or not so professional?) profile photo
Take a good long look at the headshot you’re using on networking sites – not just on LinkedIn and Twitter, but also on Facebook, Google+, and even Instagram and Snapchat. Does it say “I’m savvy and approachable”? Or does it say “I’m arrogant and inflexible”? Ask others for their opinions. If your photo doesn’t convey who you really are, have a new one made. It’s your visual calling card.
And make sure your photo is formatted properly: the right size, not pixilated, and perfectly cropped. An unprofessional photo is bad networking.
Remember too that you can use different photos on different sites depending upon the social platform. But your image should always fit the type of networking scenario you’re looking to create in each given digital space.
The icing on the cake: A few of our best networking practices
- The best way to build an active, robust network is to develop a reputation for being generous. It makes people more likely to take a chance on helping you. And who knows? Maybe the person you help will be in a position to help you down the road.
- Create relationships with professionals at every level and across all sectors and industries, not just your own. By doing so, you’ll generate opportunities for collaboration that benefit both those people and, hopefully, yourself.
- Remember that relationships form the bedrock of any successful business- or career-building strategy. Start networking today, and begin amassing the relationship capital that will both help you advance your career – and act as a safety net if you ever hit a bump in the road.