You’ve likely heard dozens of times that networking is essential to professional development –and it absolutely is! Whether you’re a full time blogger or just trying to become a bit more established in your side hustle, who you know can be of huge benefit.
But I’ve learned that who you know matters very little if you aren’t leveraging your network affectively.
If you thought that networking was simply a matter of giving and receiving as many business cards as possible, you’re sadly mistaken. The real networking happens after the business cards are exchanged, through follow ups and the creation of a living and sustainable relationship.
At the heart, of course you want to build a network of people who will be a professional benefit for you to know. But your network is more than just a list of potential job references, and you should absolutely leverage it to it’s fullest potential.
Stop waiting until you need something to reach out
A fast way to become a distant blip on someone’s radar is to only reach out when it is of sole benefit to you. You should be giving way more than you take if you plan on really maximizing the potential of your network.
Share information that is relevant to your network –not only to help them out, but to continuously confirm yourself as an expert. An expert that they can reach out to the next time they’re working on a project of interest to you.
Reach out often to remind them why they initially connected with you. If people are thinking of you, they will forward more opportunities your way than you know what to do with.
Engage them on various platforms
You’ll engage with professionals in your network much more when you have more than just their business card. Whenever I meet someone out, the first thing I do is find them on social media. If it’s not on their card, that’s a great follow up to include in an email note.
Not only will this give you more ways to contact and communicate with your network, it will also help you keep up to speed with what’s happening in their worlds.
Share your work
It’s amazing how often I’ll get freelance opportunities without even having to look for them, simply from referrals. The only reason this happens so often for me is because I make sure to share what I’m working on, or what I’d like to work on.
Your ask doesn’t always need to be super specific. Simply saying that you’re interested in exploring new ventures or that you’re working on a new project and want to expand it can open a ton of doors.
It’s on you to keep people in the loop about what you’re working on, it’s a part of regularly keeping in touch! A simple way to do this is to form a really simple email update –nothing too formal or frequent. Let people know what you’re doing, who you’re working with and how your interests are manifesting lately. Then encourage them to reply and update you as well.
Help connect others
It may seem that the more people you know and can keep to yourself, the better, but spreading the wealth can actually be more beneficial to you and others.
Know someone who’s working on a project that could help someone else? Connect them so that they can help each other! There is much to be said for being the person who always knows who to reach out to when an extra hand is needed.
The keys I mention above are wasteful if not done consistently. Remember that networking is more than just a one-time business exchange.