By Jean Cecil Frick
When I was a child, my parents would constantly remind me of the importance of making a good first impression. Little did I know that they were laying the foundations for good networking habits! Regardless of which profession you are in, networking can enhance your career by helping you establish valuable professional relationships and increasing your visibility in the marketplace. Below are a few lessons I’ve learned over the years about building a wide-ranging network.
You can’t build a network if you don’t engage with your community. Find ways to get in front of the individuals you are looking to connect with: join and attend events hosted by professional organizations or take part in talks hosted by your library or local colleges. Intentional networking is important, but don’t discount the connections you make every day in your personal life. Those friends you attend sporting events or exercise with can provide other valuable ways to expand your network.
Authenticity is essential. Get to know people on a personal level so you can make real connections with them. Having a set of questions you are comfortable asking in any setting is helpful. They can be as simple as: “How was your weekend?,” “Have you read any good books or seen any good movies lately?,” and “What are your favorite restaurants in the area?”
Connect the Dots
When you are introducing one person to another, go beyond just saying names. Describe how you know the person you are introducing and be sure to describe the professional role each individual plays. For example: “John, I’d like you to meet my friend Amy. Amy and I went to college together and she is now leading an organization focused on childhood education. Amy, John is a real estate broker and we serve on a local board together. The two of you are both passionate about education and I’d love for you to share with each other your involvement.” A strong introduction can help connect the dots and strike up a meaningful conversation.
If there is someone you are looking to create a long term relationship with, follow up after your initial interaction. Send an email shortly after, and find ways to interact with them in the future. Ask them to coffee, invite them to a professional event, forward articles you think may be of interest to them.
Taking just a few minutes to think about your networking now can pay dividends for years to come. If you ensure that you put yourself in the right situations and are equipped with the right attitude towards networking, you can very quickly build a powerful network!
Jean Cecil Frick has built a career out of trusted relationships. She is a veteran of the private, public and non-profit sectors driven by helping individuals and organizations achieve their goals. Today, she serves as a senior strategic advisor at NP Strategy where she helps clients connect with the right people and get their message across to key audiences.