Networking is nothing new. As an aspiring professional, you attend conferences, workshops and lectures. At these events, you shake hands, pass out your business cards and ‘link’ in with your new found networks. The problem is your network can remain small if you attend the same events, meetings, and workshops again and again. Below, I discuss three ways to help you improve your networking skills and ultimately your network.
1. Meet others by doing good
I personally enjoy volunteering and giving back to my community. Fortunately for you and myself, so do successful professionals. Volunteer opportunities generally draw a diverse set of individuals from varying backgrounds. You never known whom you will meet or have the opportunity to network with. For example, you may volunteer at a local YMCA. The network you build with the organization may help you in the future if you need to contact them and ask to use their space for an event or to connect you with one of their contacts or vendors. Help others and help yourself at the same time – it’s possible!
2. Join an organization unrelated to your major
We’re all guilty of it. Public relations’ departments are traditionally small. The students in those departments generally all take class together, participate in the same organizations and then hangout together too. How will we expand our network if we maintain the status quo? I recently joined the Association for Information System, a technology based organization, here at my university. As a result, I’m not only learning a lot about a new industry but I’m also networking with a lot new individuals and expanding my network. Potential employers love candidates that differentiate themselves from the rest of the candidates – start now!
3. Fun Follow-up
Traditionally, follow-up is boring, but it doesn’t have to be. We all write the standard, “Dear Sir, I greatly appreciate you taking the time to speak with me today”, but why? At a conference I recently attended a woman spoke about how a candidate she interviewed sent her a thank you not on a box of Mac N’ Cheese because she had mentioned how she lived off of it during her undergraduate years. How awesome is that? The move was memorable and probably made the recruiters day – something that is always a bonus. Find common ground when interviewing or networking and try following-up in a new and creative way.
While networking will essentially remain the same, there are always ways to improve and spice up your current networking skills. How do you network? Have you ever tried to changing the way you go about networking, if so what did you do and was it successful?