No matter what industry you’re in, networking is critical to your success. The more people you know and form connections with, the more opportunities you will have in your career. As they say, your network equals your net worth!
However, networking often feels like a full-time job itself. To help you with your efforts, Forbes Coaches Council members offered their best networking approaches that are underutilized by many professionals. Try these less-common tactics to up your networking game.
1. Focus On Clarity
Don’t try to be impressive. Focus on clarity. Your worth is not dependent on a clever-sounding title. When networking, you really want what you do as a professional to be understood quickly and easily. Often when we try to be smart, we just create confusion and this can work against you when networking. – Allan Dib, Successwise
2. Build Relationships First
Build relationships, don’t collect business cards. By adopting the “give first” principle you are showing up in service and adding value to your relationships. It’s not about what they can do for you, it’s about what you can do for them, which starts with asking one simple question: How can I support you? – Michela Quilici, MQ Consulting and Business Training, Inc.
3. Add Value To The Network
One approach that is highly effective and grossly underutilized is to help your network connect with each other and derive value. One client of yours could be a vendor for another client of yours. Try to look out for such relations and introduce the network to each other. The network will find you valuable and reciprocate with high-quality leads. – Pritha Dubey, Success Vitamin
4. Don’t Follow The Crowd
It’s easy to sign up for that general networking event because you feel you should attend or you’ll be missing out. But what if you chose to attend events you were truly interested in instead, like a conversation with industry-specific professionals? Not only does that have more value to you, but you can also relax and be yourself, which always pays dividends when networking. – Kirsten Meneghello, Illumination Coaching LLC
5. See Networking As A Way Of Being
Networking is not an event; it’s a way of being. No matter where you are, become interested in learning about others. Ask powerful questions and listen deeply. While you are listening, identify a way you could help others and be of service to them. This is a powerful way to build trust with a person and when someone trusts you, they will remember you. This will come back to you 10 times over. – Kris McCrea Scrutchfield, McCrea Coaching
6. Touch Base Regularly
Schedule touch base calls and meetings with contacts, whether external or internal, to catch up on what everyone is up to and how to best support one another in your work/career. These can be brief and are a great way to keep each other top of mind, both for referrals to additional contacts and for support with your current work, such as input on a project. Reach out and connect! – Lisa Downs, New Aspect Coaching
7. Understand The ‘Why’
The practice of “networking” has become far too transactional. As a result, too many professionals quickly exchange information on what they do as they rack up business cards to later plug into a mass email, hoping something sticks. Stop “networking” and begin building relationships by getting to know “why” people do what they do, not just what they do. – Corey Castillo, Truth & Spears
8. Have A Plan
Having a plan when you attend a networking event can make the difference between success and failure. This is especially effective when you have an idea of who may be in attendance. Having a feel for the audience will allow you to consider in advance who to seek out, or if you don’t know anyone specifically, then determine what type of people or which firms you wish to connect with. – Dan Ryan, ryan partners
9. Practice Awareness
Awareness is an essential ingredient when you are networking. Look for the intention cues being communicated by the people you meet. Look at people’s posture as well as who they are facing. Notice who makes eye contact and who doesn’t. Once you understand how to spot subtle shifts in the vocal delivery or body language of others, you can better interpret their intent and respond accordingly. – G. Riley Mills, Pinnacle Performance Company
10. Follow Up And Follow Through
Follow up is rare and follow through is nearly extinct. The percentage of people we meet when networking that we actually follow up with is very low. We all have the pile of business cards on our desk that just sit there. What is worse, however, is when there is an instance of follow up that never follows through to the next step in the relationship (e.g., an appointment, meeting, etc.) – Jeff Klubeck, Get A Klu, Inc.
11. Tap Into Your Personal Network
Tap into your personal network, including family and friends. Maybe your sister-in-law is on the PTA with a CEO mom you’ve been trying to make a business connection with. Maybe your girlfriend attends a yoga class with a member you’ve been unable to reach through LinkedIn. Or maybe your brother plays basketball with the head of a non-profit you want to do some fundraising with. Start with who you know. – Carol Parker Walsh, Carol Parker Walsh Consulting, LLC
12. Don’t Hide Your Quirks
Your natural quirks make you uniquely you. These quirks can be a good way to show who you are as a person. When people are drawn to you, they will feel like they know you and because you took risks in being vulnerable, they will be more likely to open up to you in the networking process. Remember to be positive and to support who you are and your beliefs. – Jedidiah Alex Koh, Coaching Changes Lives
13. Express Gratitude With Handwritten Notes
The handwritten note may feel like a lost art, but it actually stands out even more so in the midst of this digital/virtual world. It takes only a few minutes, requires no action of the other person and will not get lost in the inbox. Just pick up a set of small cards, a book of stamps, a nice pen and enjoy the thoughtful moments spent expressing your gratitude. – Holly R. Pendleton, HCL Technologies
14. Engage Users On LinkedIn
Comment intelligently on content your new network will see. I watch as people randomly comment on articles and content on LinkedIn for example. Why not interact with, comment on and share information from the people or area where you want to network. Authors, readers and networkers will see you intelligently interacting with content and they will recognize you when you want to do a one-on-one. – John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.
15. Help People Fill One Specific Need
Networking is all about relationship building and adding value to your network. When you connect with every person you meet, find one specific thing they’re looking for and follow up with whatever they said they needed. Whether that’s an introduction, referral, lead, organization contact, event or an article on a specific topic. People will remember that connection and how you made them feel. – Christie Samson