Written by Katelyn Regenscheid, St. Olaf intern
You hear it all the time: “It’s not what you know, it’s whom you know.” Any business professional will tell you that networking is the key to success. Why is that? And how do you network?
Networking is a way for you to connect with other professionals in your industry. Ideally, these personal connections turn into business connections that mutually benefit both you and the other party. For individuals, this can mean landing your dream job. Many job openings are not even publicly posted, which means they are being filled by connections of someone at the company. Perhaps it’s an old boss who moved to another company, or maybe it’s a reference from an old client, but it could be any one of your connections that introduces you to the job of your dreams.
As for your business, networking can help build connections that establish your reputation amongst the community. Positive connections will spread the word about your awesome business and eventually help it grow. Networking can bring outcomes such as more clients/customers, advice from others in your industry, business and personal opportunities, and influence in your community. Check out Michaela’s blog post for a few tips on kickstarting your network: http://spurnorthfield.com/networking-101/. You really have nothing to lose, so get on out there and start networking!
Not sure how to go about this whole process? Here are a few more tips:
Establish an Online Presence
Create a LinkedIn profile, blog, Facebook page, Twitter, etc. Get your name and your business on the internet so the people you meet can connect with you later. However, make sure that your connections continue outside of the electronic world as well.
Ask for Coffee
Interested in meeting someone, but you don’t know how to initiate? Ask for 20 minutes of their time, buy two coffees, and ask about their journey and career. People are usually happy to talk about themselves and help you out.
Send Thank You Cards
An email is nice, but you can be more memorable and personable by sending a physical card. If someone takes the time to introduce you, advise you, or help you in any capacity, be sure to acknowledge their efforts. People like to be appreciated, and they will remember having a positive experience with you.
Attend Networking Events
See our SPUR calendar for the events we host (http://spurnorthfield.com/calendar/), look at Patch.com, or see any of these 8 handy sites (http://bit.ly/1bGlc1F). Networking events may feel a little awkward at first, but remember everybody is there for the same purpose. These events can help you meet people you didn’t even know you wanted to meet, and such connections can be unexpectedly advantageous.
Ask a Friend to Connect You With Their Network
A personal introduction can form a more genuine and deep connection. Don’t be afraid to use your existing network to expand into diverse territory. Even your hairdresser may know somebody who could help you on the next great step in your career.
Maintain Your Connections
After making a new contact, do your best to follow up and stay connected over time. You can find them on LinkedIn, email them a relevant news article or blog post, or just meet up for happy hour. Keeping the contacts fresh will help the connections grow deeper and more genuine.
Help Your Connections
Rather than only asking for favors and introductions, offer to help the people in your network. Connect them with the people you think they should meet, give them advice, and do a favor now and then. People want to help you if you’ve done something nice for them in the past.
Looking for more?
I liked this NPR about the importance of networking: http://www.npr.org/2011/02/08/133474431/a-successful-job-search-its-all-about-networking