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Networking — a word that makes many people break out in a cold sweat. The task of making small talk with a stranger can feel daunting, especially to folks who shy away from meeting people face to face.
But whether you’re an established freelancer or first-time remote job seeker, you need a professional network for your career to thrive. The right network can teach you new skills, cheer you on, and connect you with job opportunities.
And you don’t always have to network in person; you can also make connections online. If you’re eager to learn from others in your field and stay informed about emerging opportunities, check out these 11 professional networking tips.
How to network yourself and build relationships that pay off
Networking isn’t just about finding a job; it’s about building authentic relationships with people who share the same interests as you. These professional networking tips will help you meet and connect with like-minded professionals.
1. Start with your nearest and dearest
When you’re starting out, there’s no need to jump immediately out of your comfort zone. Instead, reach out to friends and family and share with them exactly what you do.
Ask them to spread the word among their networks. Maybe you’ll discover your distant cousin across the country knows someone who needs a writer or works for a company that’s always on the hunt for talented developers.
The great thing about networking with close friends and family is that they’ll motivate you and recommend you in a heartbeat.
2. Leverage the professional network you already have
Although you may not have much professional experience, you definitely already have a network. Make a list of all the people you know professionally — your colleagues and managers from previous jobs, college professors and alumni, and past clients.
Once you have a database of people you want to connect with, reach out to them and arrange a meeting or phone call to discuss your career goals and seek advice on how to achieve them.
3. Build a strong reputation online
When it comes to online networking, the platform you choose largely depends on your field. But generally speaking, Twitter and Linkedin are powerful tools to connect with people in your niche.
You can also create a solid online presence by contributing to online forums and sites like Quora. Find ways to help others — answer questions, share useful posts, or engage in discussions to show your expertise and broaden your network.
Creating a website or blog will also ensure people come to you. By building a strong reputation online, others in your industry might come to you offering jobs or looking to connect.
4. Attend industry events
Whether it’s a networking event or a trade show, make an effort to attend events relevant to your industry. Not only will you connect with tons of potential clients, but it’s a great opportunity to meet people who share the same passions as you.
You can search for conferences in your industry or if you move from place to place, attend a digital nomad conference to find like-minded travelers. If these conferences are out of your budget, you might also head to Meetup.com to find free networking events.
5. Use networking apps to meet new people
Another way to expand your network is to use networking apps. Apps like Shapr and LetsLunch connect professionals with one another to meet over lunch or coffee.
They work much like a dating app; you can read each other’s profiles and mutually decide if you want to meet up. They’re a great way to meet professionals in your area without having to pay for conferences or other industry events.
6. Stay in touch with HARO experts
Have you ever used Help a Reporter Out? It’s a useful site that connects journalists and bloggers with expert sources.
Whether you’re a writer or a source, keep in touch with the people you’ve connected with. Reach out to them on LinkedIn or keep the conversation going over email.
That way, you can get to know even more people in your industry.
7. Network in every aspect of your life
You don’t always have to attend official networking events to connect with people. Instead, you can apply these networking tips anywhere and everywhere: cocktail parties, volunteering events, coworking places, dog parks, you name it.
Don’t miss out on any opportunity to let your accountant, travel buddy, or neighbor know exactly what you do. You never know, the right opportunity could be just around the corner.
8. Be a giver, not a taker
One of the most important networking tips to remember is that networking is a two-way street. Whenever you meet a new person, don’t think just about what they can do for you, but rather what you can do for them.
Before asking for a favor, look for opportunities to help them. When you help people, they’ll be more motivated to help you in return.
Also, when you request a favor from someone you just met, the other person feels as if they’re nothing more than a stepping stone — and nobody likes to feel that way.
9. Listen more than you talk
Want to know one of the most successful networking tips there is?
Be a good listener. Why?
Because people will reveal a lot about themselves when you take a genuine interest in what they’re saying. When you do all the talking, the other person assumes you don’t really care what they have to say and hence they hold back what they know.
But when you listen intently and show your appreciation, they’ll see you as a friend they can trust and open up.
10. Be consistent
It’s not always about how you network yourself; sometimes it’s about never dropping the ball and being consistent in your efforts. When you maintain regular contact with people, you’ll be on top of their minds when a job opportunity comes up. Stay in touch via email, tweets, blogs, online forums, and of course, in-person.
11. Be true to your word
And lastly, one of the simplest networking tips of them all: keep your word.
People like to do business with those who deliver on their promises. In networking, your reliability and credibility are undeniably your greatest assets.
If you promise to help someone, do it. If you say you’ll follow up, follow up.
If you don’t follow through on a promise, your networking efforts could come to nothing.
Bonus hacks on how to network yourself for a job
- Be active about staying in touch with people in your professional network. Having a referral is much more powerful than being just another resume.
- Make business cards and carry them with you whenever you’re out and about — especially at industry conferences.
- Keep notes about the people you meet. When you see them again, bring up something you talked about. They’ll be flattered that you found the conversation so memorable.
- Don’t constantly ask your network for job opportunities. People will remember you for all the wrong reasons if you suffocate them at networking events.
These professional networking tips will help you connect with people in the right way. Although learning how to network for a job can seem daunting at first, in the end, it comes down to just being open to people who cross your path. Put your genuine self out there, and the rest will fall into place.