Any college student has heard about the importance of networking for their future career. Networking is creating quality relationships that can lead to strong friendships and possible career connections in the future. While a lot of networking happens naturally, it's important to take time and build your network with key people you want to get to know.
There are a few simple ways to create networking relationships. It's important to look for genuine connections and to only reach out to people you really have an interest in. Don't start networking with the attitude of, "What can I get from them," but rather, "How can we both benefit?" It's important to think of what value you bring to someone else's network in addition to what value they bring to your side of the table.
To help you get started with building your network, here are 7 Ways To Master The Networking Game.
1. Attend events in your field
This is the most natural way to meet new people is to attend relevant events in your field of work or study. This can be meetups, conventions, learning sessions, or anything else specific to your area of work. Dress appropriately, and bring a handful of business cards. When conversations seem to go well, make sure to exchange contact info and follow up a few days later.
2. Reach out on LinkedIn
Many professionals have a LinkedIn account. Adding them to your online network can begin the process of adding them to your personal network. Always attach a note when you request to connect with someone you've never met on LinkedIn. Highlight your shared interests and give a short, general statement as to why you should be connected.
3. Join community groups
Every city has groups for different topics. You're sure to find one that fits your field of study. Search Facebook for group pages and do a quick Google search for your areas of interest. Try to be involved in the ones you can really see yourself getting into. As you get to know other members, they become a part of your network.
4. Volunteer for non-profit organizations
Non-profit organizations usually need help from specialists in certain areas. They count on volunteers to help them accomplish new tasks and try new things. You can offer your time and your talents, and potentially make connections within the organization or other volunteers. Not only will you be adding new networking connections, but you'll also be doing a lot of good for an organization that deserves your help.
5. Ask friends to help
Your current friends have connections that you don't have. It never hurts to ask a friend to keep you in mind when meeting new people. They may help you connect with someone and lead you to an awesome opportunity for your career. Always stay thankful and don't push them too often, or you'll ruin that friendship in the long run.
6. Invite someone to coffee or lunch
If there's someone you admire or a person who's a few years ahead of you, don't be afraid to ask them for a coffee chat. You can reach out and ask them to talk about their journey and offer some helpful advice. This could be a coworker or a local professional that's caught your attention. People are usually generous with sharing their career advice, but always remember not to push people and to express your gratitude.
7. Work on your follow up
The final and most important way to keep your networking game strong is to work on your follow up. I'm talking about maintaining those connections for the long run. You can't just reach out once and expect someone to always be there. You have to consistently communicate with them to build that relationship out. Don't overdo it, but make sure you at least follow up when you have something relevant to talk about or offer them.
Hopefully, these simple ways to grow your network will encourage you to reach out to new people and start making those important career connections early on. Your network should be carefully thought out and well-taken care of. Maintain those relationships with genuine interest and compassion, and your doors of opportunity will fly open. Just always remember to give back as much as you receive.