In today’s competitive job market, networking is more critical than ever. More importantly, it’s vital to make sure you’re connecting with the right people. You never know when a professional relationship with another person is going to come in handy in your career. The sooner you start building a network of connections for yourself, the better off you’re bound to be. Finding and strengthening these connections isn’t always easy, but once you learn how to find the right people, your circle will continue to grow.
Everyone is a Connection
Perhaps the best thing you can do for yourself from the beginning is to start viewing everyone you know and will meet as a potential connection. Whether you realize it or not, you are always leaving an impression of yourself with every new interaction you have. Luckily, you always have a chance to alter that impression if you make a mistake. If you want to make others feel favorable toward you, try practicing the 80/20 rule. This means asking about the other person 80% of the time (and actively listening) and talking about yourself the other 20% of the time. Get curious about the people around you and allow yourself to learn something from everyone through meaningful conversation.
Types of Connections
You need a few different types of people in your corner to reach your full potential and expand your network as much as possible. The first type of person you want is a promoter. These are the people who will cheer you on, provide you with references, letters of recommendation, and tell future employers just how great you are. It could be an old colleague, friend, or boss that you know you can depend on.
The second kind of person you need in your circle is a provider. Providers are the ones who are going to tell you about new job openings, trends they see, opportunities you should capitalize on, and important information you need to know. Essentially, they are deeply invested in the industry and know the ins and outs that matter most; they provide you with the intel you need. You want this person in your network so that you never miss out on anything.
Lastly, you need a producer. A producer directly arranges opportunities for you to take and may help you move up the ladder at a quicker pace. They might hire you themselves or know the right people who can give you work. They could be past clients, hiring managers, or anyone with a wide network themselves.
Building Your Network
The key to building your network is to focus on who knows you rather than who you know. You want to leave people with a genuine, memorable impression of you. Quantity isn’t as important as the quality of your relationships with those in your network. Focus on a few people at first that you can really get to know and who can get to know you deeply. From there, it’ll be easier to branch out. Ask good questions, find ways to relate to whomever you’re speaking with, and always end the conversation on a positive note.
As you start to grow your network, consider these additional tips and tricks:
- Join professional networking sites like LinkedIn
- Find and meet with alumni from your college
- Go to professional organization meetings
- Always have an elevator pitch ready
- Build relationships with academic faculty in your program
- Volunteer alongside people who share your interests
- Have a strong, professional online presence
- Do your homework before meeting someone
Building a solid network of connections takes time and patience but is vital for anyone wanting to make something of themselves in their chosen field. Whether you find contacts through volunteering, events, clubs, associations, mutual friends, or workshops, there is always an opportunity to expand your circle. Get creative in your networking efforts and remember that the benefits of having the right people around you are worth every minute of your time spent searching for and winning them over.