Business networking, like any other professional activity, requires sustained effort in order to generate positive outcomes. One of the most important aspects to networking is to focus your efforts on quality, not quantity. Build your referral network carefully. Be ready to add genuine value and you will gain reciprocal returns on your investment.
Here are some useful tips on building a referral network for career growth:
- Join a business networking group: Groups like the Chamber of Commerce, BNI, and Toastmasters can offer excellent opportunities to meet other professionals both within and outside your chosen field. Work toward establishing a strong network of partners who will mutually support their respective goals and efforts.
- Expand your network through existing contacts: Connect with individuals that you may not be able to reach directly – in other words, connect with your contacts’ contacts.
- Make yourself visible: Attend as many pertinent social and/or business gatherings as possibly. Consider charitable, not-for-profit, and community service groups as well.
- Diversify: Do not restrict your networking efforts to people within your industry or field. Create a diverse network of contacts with which you can share ideas and opinions and exchange valuable professional information.
- Develop an online network: Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and SlideShare offer a wide range of opportunities to connect with professionals within and outside your industry. Keep in mind, however, that social media is not a substitute for real-world, face-to-face networking.
- Prepare an ‘elevator pitch’: Not more than 30 seconds in length, this should offer a powerful yet concise introduction that will make another individual want to connect with you. Include your name, business, geographical location, and area(s) of specialization. Make it unique and interesting (no bragging, please!). Remember to ask others to share their information as well – this will help open networking or connecting opportunities with people you may meet briefly in elevators, hallways, hotel lobbies, on airplanes, etc.
- Be open to possibilities: Try to accommodate unplanned networking events into your schedule if/when possible. Opportunities can present themselves in many different ways so always be willing and prepared to adjust on short notice. Always have your business cards on hand.
- Create a positive image: Become known in professional circles as a positive or upbeat person. Your optimism will attract and encourage other individuals to connect with you. Avoid voicing subjective opinions and criticisms. Remain objective in your assessments of other people or situations.
- Follow up: Whether it is a referral, an introduction, or a task you promised to complete, always follow up in a timely manner. You want to appear both professional and reliable. Building trust and confidence is critical to earning job referrals.
- Choose your network carefully: You may often be defined by the company you keep. Target the groups and industry connections that are most relevant to your personal and professional objectives.
Be creative in finding ways to expand your network. Take the initiative to contact/connect with others and to contribute to your network with optimism and value. Exhibiting a strong willingness and commitment to personal growth and success will be evident to employers and recruiters alike.
Protech Solutions specializes in executive talent management and business recruitment solutions. Contact us to find out more about how you can become part of our executive network.