The heart and soul of networking is to connect with other human beings, creating sincere relationships that may “pay off” down the road with personal and professional opportunities. How do you create those relationships, though? Here are four ideas:
- Get involved – join groups supporting issues or causes that interest you. Be sure to expand beyond career-oriented groups. Open more than your checkbook – open your schedule and make time to be hands on. This will help you meet people with shared interests. Chances are, some of these new friends will also be influential and well connected.
- Find a mentor – A third-party perspective is invaluable, especially where your career is concerned. Seek out friends of a variety of ages and perspectives who can provide insight. No one person can provide the answers for everything, so be sure to find a few who can help with various facets of your career and life. Be sure to keep in touch with them; as you progress in your career, they, too will be progressing and gaining additional wisdom. Also, be sure to be a good mentee, asking questions about his or her life and providing your point of view where appropriate. The best mentor-mentee relationships provide learning opportunities for both sides.
- Create a personal “board of directors” – Speaking of mentors, it can be beneficial when transitioning between jobs or facing a major life decision to pull together mentors, colleagues, and professional contacts from a wide cross-section of your professional life, whether in person or via an email thread. Look for people who know you well and can speak to your values, goals, and next steps. Present this collection of trusted advisors with specific questions or insights you seek regarding your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. By hearing several voices that know different parts of your personality and career, you’ll be able to gain a more full-bodied understanding of what lies ahead and what decision would be best.
- Use social media – Nothing can take the place of face time, but online networking does have its place, especially as a springboard that leads to interpersonal experiences. While Facebook and LinkedIn are great places to begin networking with those you already know personally and professionally, don’t shy away from expanding into more niche networks. Some groups play to specific genders and ethnicities, like TheGlassHammer.com or 85 Broads for women. Jump into the fray of forums and conversations. Your expertise may win you favor and friends.