Even the most successful among us need help to achieve their goals. The people we meet along the way, throughout our career and life, serve as a key tool in opening doors, facilitating introductions, getting that coveted promotion, securing investor dollars and much more.
Yup, networking works, and it’s not just your imagination: 85% of job offers happen because of networking. It’s a powerful, must-have skill in your career toolbox. There’s no getting around it, it doesn’t matter if you’re shy, if you despise human contact or if you’re busy. It’s worth the effort, and it will pay off.
There’s just one issue: the traditional way of networking—you know, where you slap eggshell-white business cards into sweaty palms at conferences—sort of sucks. But there are other ways. Follow these tips to network, with the same results and far less pain.
1. Follow up on anyone you meet – fast.
And we mean anyone (okay, just about anyone). You meet people in coffee shops. On flights. At work events. There’s always an opportunity for common ground and the exchange of information. But it’s only useful if you follow up quickly. In other words, don’t meet someone and let a month go by before you shoot them a note. Send a friendly note within 24 hours, reminding them of how you met and being your personable self; do this whichever way makes you happy—LinkedIn, email, you name it. Just don’t get overly personal and don’t add them on Facebook.
2. Send something useful.
This is your check-in strategy. Don’t just hit up contacts when you need something, but send them something useful along the way, too. It could be an introduction to a potential client or partner, it could be a news article, or you could be informing them that you’re going to be in their neck of the woods for a conference and want to do coffee—but try to not waste their time. This is where relationships become extremely beneficial, when it’s a two-way volley of contacts, information and helpfulness. You’ll win points if you proactively kick things off.
3. Relax and be yourself.
Everyone says it, but we mean it. People want to connect with a fellow human. If you’re overly formal and awkward in your communication (in person or via email), it wipes the fun right out of the whole thing. Be friendly, be personable, act natural. And watch a solid contact relationship blossom.
There’s no magic to these strategies—but you’d be surprised at the few people who leverage them. By taking the steps to personalize your interactions with others and thoughtfully following up, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your network grows, and how responsive your contacts are when you need something.