“Your NETWORK is your NETWORTH!”
An application and bomb resume isn’t enough anymore. It’s also about who you know, who knows you, AND the connotation that they have about you. Your reputation is everything!
Expanding your network can lead to a plethora of opportunities. But many don’t realize that networking is about building relationships, not just having a bunch of contacts. You don’t want to be the person with 500+ LinkedIn connections but no one willing to vouch for you.
Since building relationships takes time, it’s best to be strategic with your approach and how you keep in touch. Obviously attending networking events can expand your professional circle, but here are 5 other ways to build your network like a boss:
- Be of service
When building relationships, share how you can benefit the contact. If you can volunteer to help with something, share a brilliant idea, or refer a stellar resource, you’ll be more valuable to your network. And in turn, people will want to help you when they can.
- Get involved in your industry
Every industry has professional organizations that you can get involved with. They are great opportunities to network and learn more about your trade, but be mindful of the costs of joining organizations. If you choose to, look at it as an investment that gives you access to new resources and connections. But don’t be a member just to put it on your resume. Get involved! See where there’s a need and try to fill the gap, or use your gifts to help the organization. The more you put into your membership, the more you’ll get out of it!
If you can’t afford to join, attend the events that you can get the most out of and stay in contact.
- Tap into your alumni network
Most enjoy working with people who share common interests, so you already have a similarity with people who graduated from your alma mater. Even after you graduated and started working, also maintain a relationship with your professors and the people in your career center. They all have relationships outside the classroom, so it’s beneficial to stay in their circle.
- Be social
Use your social media channels as a networking tool to connect and learn more. Post about your industry, culture and news, and participate in Twitter chats and other digital convos — #BLKCreatives, #sidehustlechat and #MillennialTalk are a few to consider.
Also, keep your LinkedIn profile updated and use the site to connect with people in your trade or in fields that you want to learn more about – even if you don’t know them. Customize the LinkedIn request and let them know your interests. It’s a chance that they may not reply, but I’ve learned from experience that they more than likely will!
- Cultivate your relationships
If you take advantage of the opportunities listed above, you’ll likely meet tons of people in your industry but they won’t really be a part of your network unless you maintain those connections. You probably won’t make deep connections with everyone, so start off by being selective of the relationships that you put extra effort into maintaining. Here are a few best practices to cultivate connections:
- Keep up with them and treat your network like a professional circle of friends. Use LinkedIn and other social media sites to keep track of others and show that you’re genuinely interested in them. Birthdays, news mentions, and awards and promotions are a few topics that can help build the relationship.
- Touch base with them at least three times a year. Keep the college mindset and shoot them an email during the spring, summer and fall semester.
- Send holiday cards or emails
- Update them on major milestones in your life (i.e. new job, graduation)
- Send articles that might be of interest
- Ask to volunteer on any projects they’re working on
- Create a spreadsheet of your contacts to keep track of their contact information and other details
Networking is the most valuable investment that you can make in your career, especially as a young professional. Get out there and start building relationships!
Lifestyle blogger and published author Teyonna Ridgeway is dedicated to helping people recognize their beauty and unleash their brilliance. By day the Atlanta native works in social media marketing, and by night she drops gems about career, travel, faith and life as a Millennial on BecomingBrilliance.com. She also makes homemade natural body butters and sugar scrubs through her Etsy shop, Gail’s Goods. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram @TeyonnaLanez.