“Networking is not about just connecting people. It’s about connecting people with people, people with ideas, and people with opportunities.”
― Michele Jennae
Often lost in our competitive and individualistic work culture is the fact that it takes a village to have a successful career. We do not accomplish great things alone. Effective networking connects you with a community of people who share information, make referrals, provide solutions, shape a career path, offer mentoring relationships, and at times even advocate for you. Creating this type of networking village takes a strategic and a highly intentional approach. So what are a few ways you can be a community builder with your networking efforts?
Find your desired communities – Determining the appropriate networking opportunities will help you best utilize your time and build the right relationships. For example, identify industry events and professional associations that fit your goals. Determine who you likely want to meet in advance. It may be helpful to look up backgrounds and companies on LinkedIn to prepare for potential conversations.
Make a few meaningful connections – One misguided strategy that people often make is collecting as many business cards as possible at an event. Not every conversation at a networking event may be worthy of exchanging information and that is perfectly okay. Making a few meaningful connections with people who will remember you is more effective. It is most productive to exchange business cards when you have mutual interests, ideas to explore, and topics to discuss in the future.
Develop a plan for follow up – One of the most neglected aspects is following up with the key connections you met at an event. A thank you card or “nice to meet you email” is not the final end point. Having a plan in place to nurture connections is equally important. Networking in many instances is about the long-term commitment. In your follow up it is important to remember and reference the connection points that brought you together. This demonstrates a level of sincerity.
A developed and fostered community of networking connections will support your career aspirations. Additionally, when you establish genuine relationships and offer to help others achieve their goals, your connections will respond quickly when you have a need. It is never too early or too late to build your networking community.