We all know that networking is an essential part of developing your career, but few do it right. I see a lot of job seekers who have been unemployed for months because they didn’t work on their network when they had a job. I also see a lot of people at networking events who either aren’t able to initiate an introduction or are passing out business cards instead of forging relationships. The truth is that people lead to jobs and promotions, not resumes. Of course, you have to be able to do the job and do it well, but there’s always going to be someone at the other side of the table that has to know, like and trust you. Here are five rules of professional networking that you should follow if you want to advance in your career faster:
1. Help others first. Instead of asking someone to get you a job or help you with a task, find ways to help others first. When you do this, people will be more inclined to want to help you. People instinctively want to reciprocate when they’ve already been supported. Spend time figuring out what other people are looking for and what you can provide to them, so you can seize the opportunity to jump in and help out.
2. Keep in touch. It’s very easy to forget about people you’ve met as you progress in your career. If someone hasn’t heard from you in a decade, the probability that they will go out of their way to help you isn’t high. You should keep track of the people who you want to keep in touch with and regularly reach out to them. This way, you can make sure you stay top-of-mind and you show that you’re putting effort into the relationship.
3. Be a connector. The more networked you are, the easier it becomes to introduce two people who can mutually benefit from knowing one another. When you introduce two different people, it makes you look good and people are more willing to introduce you to members of their networks.
4. Identify the right people. Everyone that you meet can be part of your network but it’s the best use of your time to focus professionals who are in your industry and are in influential positions. Also, you should find people who you know you can help instead of choosing people at random. The best way to do this is to use the internet to find people who work in your profession and do what you would like to do in the future. You can use LinkedIn, for instance, as a database to select the right people, and then reach out and meet offline.
5. Listen before you talk. In a networking setting it might be tempting to brag about everything you’re working on but that won’t get you anywhere. Instead, listen to what they have to say first and then respond. This shows that you respect them and actually makes them more interested in what you have to say. In meetings, if you’re the last person to speak, you will have more to talk about because you’ve already heard and analyzed the opinions of others.