You’ll be hard pressed to find a book of business advice that doesn’t include networking. It’s a critical professional practice, especially in the 21st century’s constantly changing landscape. It’s understandably difficult and time-consuming - but it doesn’t have to be! Here are four ways you can create more meaningful professional connections in less time:
Invest in your own networks. The ideal time to make valuable connections is before you’ll need a favor, so tap into your networks even when it seems unnecessary. Not sure where to start? Attend a local event from your high school or university alumni association (and enjoy the easiest smalltalk ever).
Be engaged and interested. No one is interested in getting to know the networker who is handing out business cards like a sprinkler. Take the time to know the person who you’re exchanging cards with (professionally). After the basics, ask thoughtful questions that are not too invasive: Why are you passionate about your field? What is the most surprising thing about your job? Do you have any predictions for the future of your industry?
Follow up. With today’s technology, there is no excuse not to follow up with your new connection. Send an upbeat, concise email within a week of meeting simply reiterating how much you enjoyed speaking and how you hope that you will work together in the future. If you’d like to continue the conversation, suggest several times for a phone call or coffee date. Otherwise, connect on social media to stay updated.
Sincerely help. Business connections are not a one-way street, and in order to build an effective network, you must act as a valuable professional connection. This doesn’t have to be complicated, however. You could forward an article to new connection that’s relevant to their industry, or agree to meet for coffee and answer some questions. Don’t offer unsolicited advice, however. Simply being open and helpful can mean that your new connections will be available, also.