1. Expanding your network
Networking implies regularly expanding the people you know and you do it for a purpose, whether it is to broaden your horizons, exchange business information or to experience new cultures, among others.
First start from your current network to check what valuable people you have around you. Review the contacts closest to you (=peers), list of collaborators (=companies, suppliers, delivery) and recent interactions that you are satisfied with (=online and offline communication).
Secondly make a list of communities, groups or companies that are of your interests. Planning will accelerate the potential of meeting the right people.
Useful is making a list of upcoming meetings, events and conferences where you can expand your network. You can also ask members of your network about their contacts that may come in handy. If you are willing to take on voluntary work or become a member of a centre, club or association, it will also be a good opportunity to expand your network.
While when communicating online, through social media for instance, you also a chance to engage in online networking.
Social media in fact is a very resourceful tool for networking. More and more employers or head-hunters are using social media to screen candidates, and as a result deciding if they will or will not offer the job. And as you know first impressions count. When invited to a job interview, it is advised not to speak negatively about previous employers which unfolds your poor networking (=communication) skills. You should know that what you say at a job interview is remembered, but only that – a job interview is a networking environment even if you do not get the job.
Through social media channels you can built a personal and professional network. For instance, through LinkedIn you can gain contacts of experts, sector-related individuals or groups, as well as join communities and get access to jobs that interest you. Another popular channel is Facebook, although usually considered more personal than professional, or Twitter that will also support your networking. Instagram will be beneficial in the cultural and creative sectors. The wider your network is, the higher the possibility you find the right people.
However, when you are building your network, always keep in mind the aim of the activity, who you want to meet, what is your intention and remember about the follow-up.
Why is follow-up important in networking?
Inviting a person to your network of contacts is the first step. The second step is the follow-up. It is what you do next after exchanging contacts that determines your success in networking. Regardless how much interest you have shown during the first interaction, if you do not make any other effort, you may as well forget about your contact. In order to grow your network of contacts (and build your professional relationship with them) you should get in touch with them. It is recommended that you send a thank you message or share news on initiatives that interest both you. These small things will pay off in a longer run. It is all about finding a common ground and keeping in touch with your contact. However, some circumstances of networking are intended to just “exchange business cards” in order to “use them” in the future when possibilities arise.