Your network is your net worth. Its highly likely that you have heard this phrase before, and with good reason. It is true. You can be the most skillful person in the world at whatever it is you do, but if no one knows who you are, or what you have to offer, your skill set is meaningless. Your ability to network is critical to your success, whatever it is that you do. Networking comes in many forms, it can be a one to one meeting, industry events, social media connections or various other avenues. But there are some universal truths to help you network correctly.
Give more than you take
A simple question to start, who are you more likely to help? Someone who has only ever asked you to do things for them with nothing in return, or someone that has helped you out several times before? The answer is obvious, you would likely prefer to return the favour to someone who has helped you out previously. That is the person you want to be when it comes to networking, the person who is always helping others. You should not give purely to get something in return though, you will come across as fake. But if you genuinely help others, others will want to help you in return. All relationships whether personal or professional should be a 2-way street.
Build legitimate connections
In this social media era, its easy to fall in the trap of thinking you need thousands of connections and business cards. So, let me be clear. You do not. When it comes to building you own personal network, 1 quality connection made at an industry event, is worth significantly more than spending two mins with every person at an event and getting 200 business cards. You may have gained plenty of contact details, but how many of them are going to remember you, or even prioritise responding to your email or phone call?
Keep in touch
Once you have built a valuable connection, its important to have regular interaction with that person. As with personal relationships, the more frequently the contact, the stronger the relationship you can build. The good thing about this, is you can also do this with existing contacts. Think about that colleague you used to get on great with, but you haven’t seen for 5 years, why not reach out and grab a coffee? Its likely you already have several dozen valuable contacts that you have simply not kept in touch with. We are all guilty of this, especially as we get older and family commitments take priority.
Mix it Up
Finally, remember to keep the type of events you attend fresh. Most people naturally gravitate to relevant industry events, but its important to branch out into new areas. For example, you may work in technology, but why not attend a financial services event? It never hurts to meet people from different fields, diversity of thought always leads to new and more well-rounded ideas. The broader the background of people you know, the better.