Building your network is not only something that you do when you’re out of work. You should build relationships continuously so that when you do find yourself either out of a job or looking for a new opportunity, you have a number of connections that might be able to help you out.
The key to being successful at networking is to build relationships that are authentic and honest, so that they last long-term instead of short-term. These relationships should be reciprocally beneficial, so if you are hoping someone will benefit you down the line, you should also offer your help to the other person as well.
Some tips for effective networking:
Set a goal for yourself whether it is to meet certain people at an event, meet a certain number of new people, or learn something new. It helps to find out who is going to be at an event ahead of time in order to set your goals.
Act confident (even if you don’t feel confident). It’s understandable to feel shy or uncomfortable meeting new people. Try to forget your fear and put your best foot forward!
Be friendly, open and genuine when meeting new people. Networking is about building real relationships, so be yourself and people will want to stay connected to you for who you really are
Listen more and talk less by asking lots of questions and actually listening to the other person’s answers. This way you can really get to know the other person and they will feel appreciated because you are interested in what they have to say.
Be a resource for others – networking is a two-way street. If you hope that the people you meet will be a resource for you one day, be prepared to offer up yourself as a resource for them as well. Even if you can’t be a resource for them yourself, you may be able to introduce them to someone else who may be able to help them out.
Keep some business cards handy so that you can easily exchange contact information with the people you meet. If you don’t have a business card, you can easily create your own, or have personal cards made with your contact information. If you’re on the hunt for a job, don’t forget to include a link to your LinkedIn profile or a personal site where your resume is hosted online.
Stay in touch with the people you meet and follow up with each person, even if they won’t be able to help you right away. It if helps, put your contacts into a spreadsheet telling you where you met the person, their contact information, their place of work, even the last time you spoke with them.
Remember that it is all about building meaningful, mutually-beneficial relationships with others. By being sincere, offering your services and keeping in touch, you will soon have a strong network that will hopefully be there for you when you begin your next job search.