Networking can sometimes be a challenging experience. You’ve successfully made it through the awkward glances, wondering if now is a good time to walk over. Or you are patiently standing next to a group hoping for a window of opportunity into the conversation. Now you have finally made a connection and found the perfect moment to share your elevator pitch. After leaving the event, you are left wondering, now what?
This is where the real work begins.
The time after making a connection is vital to get the true value out of networking. Despite that fact, only 80% of candidates follow up after a networking event. Here are some tips that will help you make the most out of networking – from following up, prioritizing relationships and creating an action plan.
We all have busy lives, and sometimes it can be hard to keep up with the connections you make. That’s why your goal should be to optimize your time. Once you’ve made many new connections, figure out which ones to prioritize.
When determining what relationships to prioritize, you want to be strategic. First, you must set the goal defining what you want to gain from the connection. For example, you may focus on the connections you’ve made at companies you want to work with or those in a position you’d like to be in to gain knowledge and guidance. Those are the connections you should start with first.
Then if you still plan to connect with everyone you’ve met, send them a thoughtful connection request via LinkedIn or email. However to ensure the quality of your relationships, only select two to three connections with the intention of forming more regular communications. Knowing and understanding your availability for building and nurturing relationships is essential to help you decide how many contacts you can manage.
The key to being successful is to understand that networking is about relationships. Networking should be something that will be beneficial for both parties, and that can only be accomplished through having a long lasting relationship. Creating an engagement schedule will help you maintain connections even when life gets busy. Select a manageable schedule that you can commit to, for example, meeting for breakfast bi-monthly or quarterly.
Such check-ins will allow you to learn more about your new connection, see what they are working on, and see how you can be a resource to help them if needed. Come prepared to each meeting by doing your research with a plan of what you’re looking to gain and/or learn with each conversation to maximize your time together.
When building relationships, you may learn that your new connection is uninterested or lacks the bandwidth to meet, learn or share. The reality is that every connection won’t be a good connection, or you could feel like you don’t vibe with someone, and that’s okay as well. Just keep it professional. Choose to build relationships where you can be authentic, as that is when you will get the most out of the relationship.
Remember that networking will only work if you work through the process. Don't minimize the power of networking when looking for an advantage in progressing your career or job search. Most importantly, don’t get discouraged, as every connection won’t be a great connection. Lastly, be intentional about the relationships you choose to nurture. Today is a great day to start creating your action plan and making new connections!