Networking has been the backbone of successful professional careers since the first handshake was created. You have probably heard the saying since you were young “It’s not about what you know, but rather who you know”.
But the skills needed to do this effectively weren’t exactly taught to us in school. Things like algebra were a lot more important to understand, right?
Whether you are an introvert, extrovert, or somewhere in between, having an effective networking strategy can pay dividends throughout your career
That is why it is paramount to build valuable relationships and expand your personal network without sacrificing your sanity or resorting to questionable networking tactics.
So put on your networking game face (but leave the cheesy elevator pitch at home), and let’s get started!
What Are Network Strategies?
Network strategies in simple terms are deliberate and planned approaches to building professional relationships and expanding your personal network as a professional.
There are certain strategic networking tactics that can not only boost your ability to connect with others but do it in a way that is professional.
The goal of networking strategies is to put yourself in the best position possible to grow your network and grow your personal brand.
What Are The Best Networking Strategies?
Below is a list of the top networking strategies you need to grow your network as a professional.
1: Building Relationships First and Foremost
Building relationships is the key factor in networking strategies. Sure you could go around collecting hundreds of business cards or shaking every hand you see, but what good is that if there is no relationship?
Your goal for any opportunity to network with others should always be to build a relationship and connect with an individual. Rather than approaching every conversation with the mindset of “What can I take”, approach it with the attitude of “What can I give”.
People can tell a fake from a mile away. If you approach every opportunity with this mindset people will naturally gravitate toward you and you will naturally build more relationships with professional contacts.
2: Find a Way To Add Value
So often in our professional careers, we are taught to “sell ourselves” in the sense of how good we are and why people should like us. While this is not necessarily a bad thing and has its place in a professional environment, the ideology behind it is skewed.
The goal when selling one’s self in a conversation where the goal is to network with another should be to show value to the person. Whether that means showing value in a solution, a reason you should be hired, or simply connecting with that person.
The first goal in your mind when entering a conversation with someone should be thinking about how you can add value to this person’s life where they would want to network and connect with you.
3: Follow Up and Follow Through
Let’s face it, we are seemingly busier than ever in today’s fast-paced era. So much so that little things like a great conversation with someone might be out of sight out of mind the second that is over.
When an opportunity does arise, and you are able to have a great conversation with someone, it is paramount that you follow up and follow through with that contact.
Whether you are in line at the grocery store, at your kid’s soccer game, or at networking events, if you are able to get a hold of some sort of contact information, don’t be weary to follow up with that person and capitalize on the opportunity.
4: Be Prepared
No, this is not your cue to go write up a robotic and cheesy pitch about yourself to say during any semi-interesting conversation.
Being prepared is one of the simple networking strategies that implore you to always be on the lookout for opportunities to network with someone.
As mentioned above, whether you are at the grocery store or your kid’s sporting event, always be prepared to connect with others. You never know where your life-changing connection with someone may be.
5: Get a Digital Business Card
Essentially, they allow you to share your contact information, social media profiles, or business websites with someone else’s phone simply by tapping your card against another person’s cell phone. A simple solution to increase your operational network capabilities.
Grabbing a stack of business cards is probably not the first thing you think about when you’re leaving your house every day. With an NFC business card, you can ensure that you are always readily prepared to connect with other professionals no matter where you are.
6: Attend Events or Conferences Specific to Your Industry
While attending a networking event has been a longstanding pillar in every networking guru book, it is more relevant than ever in the wake of pandemics and remote working to have real human interactions.
Not only is this critical for overall mental health but for the value that is built through face-to-face interactions.
While social media makes networking and connecting easier than ever, nothing builds a real relationship quite like a handshake and face-to-face conversation.
7: Stand Out
Everyone has a pitch, a nice suit, and maybe even some good talking points. But, every so often, you come across an individual that is different. For some reason, they stand out from the crowd, and that is the person you remember down the line.
Now, this isn’t to say that you should do something outlandish or dye your hair blue (unless that’s your thing) in order to get noticed. Rather, focus on the things that make you unique and figure out how to add value to that person.
People want to hide behind a cheesy pitch and don’t want to put themselves out there to stand out. So go the extra distance and be different in your approach to networking strategies.
Networking strategies are not meant to be elaborate schemes or gimmicky tactics. But building your networking skills won’t happen overnight either.
The networking process is one that will be refined and smoothed over the years as you continue to build your professional development skills.
Many professionals would contribute much of their success to simply networking with the right individuals. Whether you are a fresh youngster right out of college or in a seasoned leadership position, the networking strategies laid out within this article will put you in the best position to succeed and expand your network.
Luke is a published author, technology strategist, and creator of multiple online businesses working in the SAAS space. Luke writes about the intersection of Ai, software, and tech in relation to business, writing, and creating at LukeLovelady.com. Luke is currently working for a B2B SAAS company as a Sales Development Representative.