In recent years, our communication preferences have shifted from the traditional means of telephone conversations and face-to-face meetings, to connections powered by the click of a ‘follow’ or ‘connect’ icon online. While the speed of digital interactivity has amplified our reach in the marketplace, our attention to building and fostering meaningful relationships has diminished. This divide creates opportunity. Cultivating an effective network is a beneficial strategy at every stage of your professional development. Whether you are entering an active career search or researching industry trends and referrals – your network is your most valuable resource.
The crux of successful networking lies not in how many connections you can generate on social media platforms or the number of business cards in your back pocket at an industry conference, but rather the opportunity to contribute value to your sphere of influence. As active recruiters in a field that relies heavily on the reach of one’s network and the power of connectivity, we often hear sales and marketing professionals ask, “what’s in it for me?”
Instead of placing your focus on your gains, turn your attention to how you might benefit others. Listed below are three ways to offer value to your network, which in turn will bring value to you:
Become a Connector – Recognize opportunities to make introductions and be willing to reach out and initiate the interaction. Connect people with shared interests and career goals, diversify your reach and make connections outside your niche. Utilize the introduction feature on LinkedIn – without engagement, your 500+ connections brings no value.
Provide Thought Leadership – Offer relevant market information, answer questions from members in your group and share appropriate articles. Social networking provides the opportunity to demonstrate your thought leadership skills and sets you apart from the competition. Consistently update your status on LinkedIn and Twitter – be present and engage in online conversations. Share articles, Retweet relevant links and ‘Like’ status updates.
Follow Up and Follow Through – Effective networking requires both making connections and maintaining regular contact with acquaintances. Gathering business cards doesn’t build a successful network, nor does the click of the ‘connect’ button. Follow up with an email or schedule an informal meeting. But whatever you do, be certain to follow through on what you said you would. And remember to say, “thank you!”
In the dynamic, fast-paced world of digital communications and our desire to consume information, we often fail to contribute in our haste to receive. An effective network encourages professional growth and drives potential career opportunities. It calls for concerted effort, dedication and a genuine desire to bring value to the greater community. Make these connections, be present and offer your assistance.