There’s a gargantuan difference between networking like a pro and doing it the way most people do it. The bad news: you’re probably doing it wrong. The good news: if you found your way here, you’re on the verge of changing that.
In the following article, we’ll be discussing the 10 things you can do in 2019 to turn it all around. But first, let’s examine some of the behaviors that lead us astray. Let’s begin!
When Networking Goes Wrong
A survey conducted by LinkedIn in 2017 emphasized the importance of networking to the professional. Unfortunately, it also highlighted that more than one-third weren’t sure how to do it.
Perhaps the easiest way to answer that question is to illustrate the ways that it can go wrong. Avoid these, and you’re much better equipped to tackle the 10 ways of networking like a pro that we’re about to show you. First up:
You Are Too Much About ‘What Is in It for Me?’
Networking is about building mutually beneficial connections. In doing so, you elevate your own profile but you do it while lifting someone else. Or at least being available and willing to do so.
Too many professionals go into networking with an air of desperation. They feel like they’ve got to push their careers forward instead of thinking about how they may push others forward. Next:
You Think Social Media Is Enough
Social networking is a misnomer, and it has been since it first began to intrude into our lives. Even today, platforms like Facebook and Instagram are referred to as “social networks” when, in most cases, they’re poorly used and mindlessly addictive.
People too often judge their successes at social networking by the number of their connections. Not quality. That brings us to the third reason networking goes wrong:
You Refuse to Invest in It
You can only get so far sending and accepting friend requests and following this person or that company. Like anything of value, you need to invest in the networking process and spend real dollars to better position yourself in front of the people who can really help. Finally:
You Are Not Concerned About Becoming a Student of Your Niche
Networking is a lot easier if you know what you’re talking about. Find something you can excel at; then use it to open doors that would otherwise remain closed. If you correct these errors, then you’ll be in a much better position to do the following pro networker power moves.
- Attend a Conference
When we talk about needing to invest in your efforts, networking conferences instantly comes to mind. The downside is that, between multi-day passes and travel expenses, this can get expensive.
The upside: it’s likely tax-deductible. And the people you meet at conferences are more likely to have a positive impact on your career than anyone you’ve scouted through LinkedIn.
Few people who aren’t interested in impactful networking relationships will attend a conference. So if you do, you’ll be in some very good company.
- Expand Your LinkedIn Circle
LinkedIn is certainly among the top 10 professional networking sites. That’s what it was designed for, after all. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to use it.
The wrong way is to focus solely on growing your network and going immediately into a “what’s-in-it-for-me” cold pitch when someone accepts you. The right way is to drill further down and join groups specific to your niche.
Use each other as sounding boards. Present issues you’re facing and help others with solutions to theirs. That commitment to mutual support will build connections worth keeping.
- Solve a Problem
Another great way to connect and expand your network is to pick a pain point in your industry. Something that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention from influencers. Then, find a way to solve it. You can do that through a free webinar, ebook, video, podcast, or blog post. Create the content. Make it easy to access.
People will come to you for the connections at that point. They may even ask you to speak at future conferences or events.
- Get Involved in a Niche Community
Look for websites, blogs, or local meetup groups that are centered on your area of interest or expertise. These individuals are going to be of much greater value than random Facebook connections because they’re already wrestling with the same issues that you are. The niceties are out of the way and the communications stay focused and meaningful.
- Dust Off Your Connections List
Set aside time every few months to go over all your professional connections. Make note of two things: how they can help you and how you can help them. Then, send a quick message asking how things are going and offering to get together for coffee (if geography allows).
- Join Your Chamber of Commerce
It’s time for a quiz. Which of the following is not something your online professional network can do for you?
- A) In-person meetups centered around networking;
- B) Economic development investments designed to attract potential clients to your region and business;
- C) Constant promotion; or
- D) All of the above
The answer, of course, is D) All of the above. And these are all areas where a Chamber of Commerce excels. Join yours, even if the bulk of your clientele is online.
- Become a Local Influencer
Through Chamber events and local connections, you can establish yourself as a local expert and influencer in your field. Offer free classes to local Chamber members to harness the free marketing support. Use a networking app so people can see what you’re up to across the web and view portfolio samples.
- Sponsor an Event
The event doesn’t even have to be in your niche. Simply signing up for a popular area music festival or biker rally can go a long way in getting your name in front of the right people. But sponsoring a conference in some way, large or small, can yield the most bang for your buck.
- Be a Smarter Social Networker
Do the Facebook/Instagram/Twitter thing. But don’t get wrapped up in pointless drivel that has nothing to do with your business. Be professional and respectful of your audience, and treat the network like it’s an extension of your business.
- Ask for Advice
Asking thoughtful questions of giants in your field will likely get you thoughtful responses. More importantly, it’ll put you on their radar. And that’s always a great place to be.
Put These Networking Like a Pro Tips to Use ASAP
Some of the tips you’ve just read can be employed immediately. Others that require investment may take a bit more planning.
But if networking like a pro is important to you (and it should be), then it’s important to get started right away. And while you’re here, make sure to check out some of our other great career tips and advice. Good luck!