Written by: Joel Miller
For many people, the thought of business networking can seem like a chore or even a nerve-wracking ordeal. When done properly, business networking can be enjoyable and helpful to one's career. In the past business networking was usually done in-person; however, today many people also use the Internet as another means of widening their professional networks. In both cases, it is important to brush up on networking strategies and etiquette for successful results.
One of the first advantages of business networking is that it allows us to meet new people. While it is a great way to increase our profiles or business awareness, not all of these people will necessarily turn into new customers or sales leads; however, they can help to introduce us to other business opportunities further down the line. Meeting other professionals provides a fresh forum for people from different professional backgrounds to exchange ideas. They might offer information on how to do something better, or how things are done elsewhere. Sometimes, business networking leads to new connections, mentors, or careers.
In today's prominently digital world, social media sites are hard to ignore. Rather than limiting them for personal use, they can be leveraged for professional use. One way to approach it is by virtually meeting contacts of people who you already know. Alternatively, people can participate in online professional groups or forums that are related to their line of work, or specific to their area. Do be careful in setting up an online profile; don't include any information that should not be shared publicly. This includes text, images, or video that should ideally be kept personal. Professionals using social media should be careful when posting online. Information can easily be traced back to them, so never post anything that could be damaging to you or others.
While online networking is convenient enough, in-person networking is still crucial. There's nothing quite like making a face-to-face connection with another person. Since it can be somewhat difficult to track down and meet new professionals, many people head to networking events. They usually take the form of an office-casual party, where professionals from many different fields and companies attend. Some of the most important aspects of in-person networking are to be confident and interested when talking to others, instead of only talking about yourself. At the same time, don't treat it like a formal interview. Try to learn about their jobs, their company,
After initially meeting a potential business contact, whether online or in person, the best way to keep in touch is through meaningful follow-ups. Give them a call or send over an email to let them know that you appreciated meeting them. Continue to follow-up each month. This might be done by referring a customer to them, offering insightful tidbits, or inviting them out for lunch or coffee. Always thank them when they do something to help you. To meet other people, join a variety of groups. People can also extend business networking to several other places. For example, the person in the next seat on an airplane, or people who volunteer with you at a local charity, could easily turn out to be potential business contacts.