6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
In today’s world, the networking strategy is essential for your professional development. It is about creating a network of contacts with people who have interests similar to yours, in order to learn, exchange, and discover job and business opportunities that can enhance their work profile.
Networking is built progressively, and you can do it through social networks, especially those aimed at the professional market, such as LinkedIn; and also in meetings, events, trainings, clubs and associations representing your activity. You can do it virtually as in person, and even through third parties who introduce you to the right people.
The result is obtained in time, after a permanent process, since it is useless to activate a network if you give up at the first stumble, or to make two or three contacts and abandon it. It is necessary to persist and try alternative paths to establish your own network that you will have from that day on.
How to create a network of professional contacts
To face this process it will be necessary:
- Know your market very well and who you want to target;
- Have clear goals;
- A solid and consistent professional profile;
- It helps a lot to have your personal brand established;
- Investigate and inquire previously and constantly,
- And a value offer (what you have to deliver to the network) interesting and different from what exists.
You can start with the contacts you already have, for example, your fellow students, professional colleagues you worked with, former employers, your neighbors and acquaintances in general that are aligned with your profile.
There is a belief that suggests that networking is only about selling and making a profit for one: nothing could be further from the truth. It is even counterproductive to want to sell immediately, without giving the other person the opportunity to discover something interesting in your professional profile. Remember that the goal of networking is to empower each other.
Advantages of networking
If you are still doubting, check these five aspects to see if they are of interest to you:
- Increase the visibility of your personal brand, businesses and companies.
- It opens up opportunities that you would not otherwise know about.
- It helps to think differently, observing where the trends are going.
- Boost your communication and empathy skills.
- Help you obtain valuable information from different sources and then process and create your own models that increase competitiveness in your segment.
The 10 rules to be successful in networking
To help you network, I have created these ten rules that can serve as a guide:
1. GIVE TO RECEIVE. It is necessary to be clear about what you are going to contribute to others, through fostering the relationship for a long time. People and companies are willing to open doors to those who have earned their trust.
2. ADD VALUE. This point is key, because all networking is based on a genuine interest on your part to relate, and on the other to establish links. Always start by inquiring about what others need, and don’t put your anxiety about selling or getting something before showing your worth.
3. DEFINE YOUR SEGMENT. As you may have observed, you need to connect internally with your meaning and purpose beforehand so as not to divert your efforts in networking. Knowing people means taking an interest in them and helping them achieve their goals: this tactic is practically irresistible so that they will later pay attention to you and even help or advise you.
4. SEGMENT. Not all people will be a target audience, as we call it in communication. Take advantage of your differentials to network with those who know how to appreciate it. And there is no networking the same as another: you need to design different strategies for each person. For example, it is not the same to interact with the manager of a company, than with the members of the board of directors of a professional association, or with head hunters.
5. TAKE THE INITIATIVE. At this point I would like to be emphatic: if you don’t move, nothing will happen. It is about generating a living network, in permanent transformation. My suggestion is that you start by making 5 new contacts per week in person or virtual, and 5 more per day through social networks, always in a personalized way. All this for a year in a row, and then evaluate the results.
6. RESPECT THE SPACE. Do not invade others; instead, seek to integrate yourself naturally. Remember that persistence is not the same as persistence, and that is precisely the quality that you must develop in successful networking. Also train yourself to accept “no” for an answer.
7. TRANSPARENCY. When creating your network of contacts it is necessary that your honesty and good intentions are always present, even though others may not behave like this with you. For this, establish clear rules; For example, if you want to make a commercial offer, ask first, and, of course, you do not want to take advantage of others or take advantages.
8. AGILITY AND NEED. As I mentioned earlier, networking is a process that takes time. Once up and running, interactions are fast and agile. To give it a boost, you can learn to spot opportunities to create a sense of need, arouse curiosity, deliver information, invite, share.
9. TRAIN IN EXPOSING YOUR IDEAS. Within the soft skills, all will help you to do networking. You can work with concept maps to organize your ideas and how to share them with other people. I also suggest that you develop different presentation strategies and materials, which should be up-to-date and available. The objective is to conquer a space in that immense world of your professional network, and stand out for your merits, solvency and differentials.
10. SUPPORT RELATIONSHIPS. Human quality is essential, because you cannot do networking being a bad person. Seek that your links are lasting, through generating honest relationships. Authenticity, which is the opposite of creating a character from your professional role, is the inner value that can help you make lasting bonds.
By following these steps you will be able to establish a network of quality professional contacts that will enhance your skills and qualities, and you will be able to more effectively achieve your goals based on your qualities, persistence and determination.