Networking has been around for a very long time. From the early days of the Royal Society in the late 1600s when gentlemen gathered together to share scientific discoveries and make connections with like-minded people, to today where people connect to advance careers and share knowledge and career advice. It has been a way for humans to learn, discover and advance for hundreds of years.
As with all forms of communication, there are many different ways to master the art. Here are a few alternative ways on how to network that can help you to advance your career and professional life.
1. Networking is about giving, not just receiving
The best networkers share their ideas and knowledge.
The mistake is to think of networking as a way to receive; when in reality, if you want to get the most out of networking, giving and sharing your knowledge will develop your spheres of influence and expand the number of people who will help you much faster.
Sharing your knowledge will also encourage people to introduce you to other, like-minded people and expand your network.
2. Become known as an expert in your field
One of the best ways to become better at networking is to become known as the expert in your field. To do this, you need to read, listen and learn everything you can about your area.
This could be anything from knowing what trends are growing in your industry to understanding how new technologies such as blockchain and AI are affecting your business area.
When you become known as an expert in your field people will seek you out, rather than you having to seek people out and your network will grow organically.
3. Always have time for other people
In a world where we feel overwhelmed by work and commitments, it is hard to find the time for additional activities. But the best networkers always find the time to develop relationships, meet new people and exchange ideas and views.
You never know when you might meet a person who could give your career the boost it needs. So being open to meeting new people will expand your network, open up opportunities and could result in your next career opportunity.
If someone in your network suggests you meet with someone, make sure you take the time to meet that person and get to know them.
4. Write a blog, start a podcast or a YouTube channel
One of the best ways I have found to build a thriving network is to write a blog or create a podcast or YouTube channel.
Often these activities are seen as a way to build a client base; yet over the years I have been writing, recording and producing content online, I have developed an amazing network of friends in my field from all over the world.
Many of those friends also produce content online and we have shared each other’s content and given tips, ideas and have opened doors for each other that would previously have remained closed.
5. Never burn your bridges
I learned this a long time ago.
You never know what your colleagues, clients and school friends will do in the future. No matter what you think of a person, remaining on good terms with them will help build a long and deep list of people you can go to for help in the future.
When you burn your bridges, not taking the time to reply their emails, messages or phone calls, you destroy connections that may in the future allow you to develop your career and knowledge base.
I’ve received tips and connections from some of my old school friends who are in the broadcasting industry, legal advice from former colleagues who are now partners in their own law firm, and referrals from some of my old drinking buddies.
Remaining on good terms with former schools friends, colleagues and hometown friends has been a mine of helpful tips and advice.
6. See each new connection as an opportunity to share
Whether you are on a train or a flight and start a conversation with the person sitting next to you, or you are meeting new people at a conference, always see it as an opportunity to share rather than an opportunity to gain.
The best networkers not only know how to use their network, but they also understand that in order for their network to grow and remain effective, they need to be developing their connections regularly.
The fastest way to grow your network is to see each new introduction as a way to share something useful. When you share something useful with a new acquaintance, they are much more likely to help you in the future.
7. Use social media
Social media has revolutionized the way we communicate and in doing so, it has opened up opportunities that can allow us to build a global network of friends.
Get yourself involved in groups that are related to your field, ask and answer questions and get to know the people sharing ideas and tips.
I know social media can destroy a productive day, a good way to do this is to set aside time each day to read through the groups you are a member of, and answer a question or pose a question yourself.
Being active in these social media groups gets you noticed and allows you to share your knowledge with other people. I have met numerous people through these groups who have introduced me to business opportunities that would otherwise have remained closed to me.
Bonus tip: Stay away from discussing religion and politics!
In the past, we shared business cards; today we give people our LinkedIn or Facebook names.
If you are posting your political views in these places, it will kill your network. No matter what your religious or political beliefs are, there will always be people who do not share those views. At a time when political and religious beliefs have become polarising, it is safer to stay away from these areas.
Be completely neutral on these topics and you will be safe. Offer an opinion on these topics and you will be dragged into a debate that could tarnish your networking opportunities for a very long time.
Networking can be hard and time-consuming, but it can also open up opportunities to you that would otherwise remain closed off.
Maintaining an open mind to meeting new people, having a sharing mindset rather than a receiving mindset and becoming known as an expert in your field will bring benefits to you. And that will help you grow your career and influence over time.
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