How to Network in 2018

Shelley SmithBlog, Workplace Culture

Network, connect, meetup, hangout, show up.

The urge to remain in touch is innate as humans, but the pressure has grown exponentially over the past decade. As technology connects us constantly, do our connections truly deepen, or are they wilting?

That’s why it is so important to not only make a great impression, but also to be authentic. True relationships are founded on mutual respect, trust, and time. Be willing to put in the work required for all three before you expect to yield anything in return.

Although our society has somewhat moved away from the “boys’ club” mentality of the past, networking remains a crucial element in many business transactions and decisions. Those who do it well are perceived as more successful (and often are). It’s not always right, it’s not always fair, but it is the truth, at least for now.

Whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, seasoned business person, or totally new to the 9-5 grind, networking is a skill just like any other—it must be learned, developed with practice, and exercised regularly.

Because anyone can network but everyone needs help sometimes, I’ve put together some tips on making business connections at networking events, expos, meetings, and more.

  1. Go out with friends, coworkers, and acquaintances who may have insights or further contacts within your industry. Coffee, lunches, smoothies, and after-work drinks are all great ways to build rapport with business contacts. While you’re building that professional relationship you may even accidentally make a few real friends—a win-win!
  2. Try honey instead of vinegar, and team up with your competition. Just as your day-to-day work likely goes through several phases and sets of hands, a big project may require collaboration. By viewing your competitor as a partner, you shift the power dynamic, lose an enemy, and gain an ally.
  3. Leverage the power of technology. Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn are all excellent social media platforms for discovering mutual connections and initiating contact. Shapr is an app built to work as a professional matchmaker, suggesting other local professionals in your area. If you both swipe right, you’re able to message one another to set up a meeting.
  4. Don’t forget the traditional routesspeaking events, workshops, seminars, tradeshows, conferences, chamber & association events, etc. Keep an eye out for local events, checking major venues near you for promising events. And don’t be shy—everyone is there looking to make connections. You’re almost guaranteed a receptive response.
  5. Remember not to monopolize the discussion. You’re both looking to make mutual connections, so be sure to ask lots of thoughtful questions about the other person’s company, role, and goals.
  6. Remember, networking is not just about what others can do for you. It’s the construction of a complex relationship, and it will involve give and take. Connect your connections with one another, ask how you can help others in your circle, raise standards, break ceilings, motivate those around you, and give referrals freely. You never know when someone might return the favor.
  7. Recognize the unique strengths and skills in others, and point them out. The right person in the right seat is invaluable, as the PI® proves. It can be difficult to see our own strengths sometimes, so if you notice a coworker is really great at something, say something. A culture of positivity makes for a sustainable work environment, and you can bet coworkers will take note of your camaraderie. 
  8. Connect with yourself, your wellbeing, and your goals. Remain abreast of industry updates, current trends, and popular news. Stay on your toes, learn something new, travel out of town, take time to focus on your passions, connect with your family. Tap into your own potential, then reach out to those around you.

Networking isn’t so scary once you just dive in and do it! Even if it’s not your thing, remember—there’s usually free food. Try and relax, and remember that there’s no pressure. You’re making authentic connections, so there’s no need to worry.

You are enough, and you are prepared. You can do this!