Getting to know people can be difficult. Unfortunately, nothing will help your career like knowing the right people. Networking can be hard even for seasoned professionals. It’s even harder when you are starting out because you don’t even have an idea how you can add value to your network. Here are a few tips to get you started on building relationships when you are just starting out.
Your current network
Friends and relatives are very valuable but most people ignore them and instead think that strangers are better placed to help them in their careers. It’s easy to forget that the people you already know are apart of our network. Talk to your relatives and ask them to introduce you to people who they think might help you. Develop alliances in your work place (or university) and leverage your current network to move ahead. If you are still in school, try networking with fellow students, professors, and others in your field. You can also serve as a connector of people you already. Do not shun networking events and if you have business cards, carry them If your company organizes happy hours, attend them. You can expand your network even at church. Be courteous and respectful to the people you meet in your daily life.
Attending conferences and other similar events is a good way to meet people who are interested in the same things that you like. Look out for events that are aligned to your career goals and plan to attend. If possible, find out what speakers are going to be there, attendee lists, the brand of the conference and the style. This will help you reach out to people you are interested in even before the conference.
Industry conferences are ideal platforms to meet new people, introduce yourself, and get job opportunities. Do not brush aside your etiquette and start asking for jobs right away. Be patient and see how you can add value to the other person so that you can gain as much as you can from your networking efforts. The real work happens after the conference. Take your relationships beyond the conference by keeping in touch with your new contacts.
Social media is a powerful tool to jump start your professional network when you are just starting out. All the social media profiles that you choose to maintain should have a strong bio that is not only professional but also represents your interests. I personally love twitter because you can follow just about anyone you admire . You can get to know what is on their mind, what they are working on and get inspiration to move forward in your own career.
Social media gives you the opportunity to engage in conversations with people you admire. You can also add value to your network by sharing insightful thoughts, information, articles, and demonstrate knowledge of your field. To get attention on any social media platform, you have to prove that you are someone worth listening to by adding value to others. With a little work, the relationships you establish on social media can open doors.
Online groups are a great way to connect with people who like the things you like and also for accountability purposes. Usually groups are for people who want to achieve the same things for example if you are trying to improve public speaking skills, there are groups you can join. Whatever topic/skill you are interested in, it is possible to find like minded ninjas online. Find some blogs or online forums on the topic you like and join facebook groups of those blogs. LinkedIn is a powerful tool to use when you are build a network. Find relevant groups and join the ones that are best for you.
The Criteria to join any online group could include: geographic location, industry, education, interests, etc. An online group has to be worth your time. If you can have access to information shared on the group before you join find out what sort of information is shared. Is it question and dialog on topics you care about? Is it engaging conversation that adds value?
When you have joined an online group, remember that the goal is to expand your network. You will not achieve this by being a passive participant in the groups you join. Ask questions and provide thoughtful answers so that you can contribute to ongoing conversations. That is how you will gain visibility and grow your network as you start out.
Courses give you access to people who are interested in the things you like. They can range from short offline classes to online workshops and events. Even free online courses MOOCS like coursera have online forum discussions where students can engage with each other. When you join a class, take it as an opportunity to develop relationships not only with the instructor but also fellow students.
Another way you can develop relationships is through cold emailing. If done thoughtfully and respectfully, cold emailing can be a powerful way to reach out to strangers. Before sending a cold email. One of my most valuable to mentors to date is someone I reached out to through cold emailing. Be as clear as possible and get to the point.
How did you develop your network when you were just starting out? Let us know in the comments! Also, Sign up for our newsletter so that you are kept up to date on conferences and other events that you might be interested in.