Networking has always been essential in professional life, whether you’re searching for a new job or simply looking to expand opportunities in your field. Making connections is what helps you move through the ranks and reveal new pathways you may not have even known existed. However, just as the job market is competitive; trying to stand out from peers and colleagues also requires strategy. Here are four innovative ways to get the attention of the right people and build a meaningful network of useful acquaintances.
1. Utilize Social Media
Networking doesn’t stop after you meet someone in person, or you can even do it online without interacting face to face at all. U.S. News recommends that one of the first things you do to solidify your presence with a potential contact is to mention your Twitter handle, since you can also tag people within this social media nexus. They suggest that using hashtags can boost your chances of being seen and increase traffic to your account. Given the rise of online communication systems like BlueJeans video conferencing, interacting in a world where mediums like BlueJeans are used to conduct business is just another example of how networking digitally is just as important as attending cocktail parties or industry events.
2. Go Beyond the Boundaries of Your Current Job
If you currently work at a large company, making connections just within your own organization can be a job on its own. However, you should expand your horizons and get out of your office to meet other people completely removed from your current employment. The Washington Post recommends joining a sports steam, volunteer organization, alumni association, or committee as a way to make new contacts. If you’re interested in getting involved with your local community, for example, join the local community board. If you spend some time looking, there are plenty of places that you can engage and establish an entirely new web of contacts.
3. Make Sure Your Follow Through
Career site Monster emphasizes that part of building a useful network isn’t just making new contacts, but also maintaining them. They suggest keeping a detailed record of where you met each contact, what you discussed, and what came of it. If you want to use your contact as a reference, make sure to ask first. For example, if you meet a new person at a dinner party via a mutual friend who happens to be in the same business, remember that the connection was made in a social setting. The circumstances under which you meet someone sets the tone for subsequent interactions you might have with them. Even if you want to evolve an acquaintance you meet this way into a business contact, you have to start with the original atmosphere. Therefore, in the dinner party scenario, being cordial and informal is appropriate.
On the other hand, if you meet someone at a professional conference, the more formal business tone has already been set. This may travel an opposite arc, where a professional contact becomes less formal as time goes on. The important thing is follow through and making sure you paying attention to the tone of first introductions.
4. Give Your Business Card a Payoff
How many boring business cards do you have tucked away in your desk drawer? Chances are a lot, since that’s how the story tends to go nowadays. Business cards used to function as more practical items in the era when taking a phone number meant you had to have a pen. Today, a business card temporarily carries information that will be put into a computer, and then discarded. If you really want to stand out as a person to know, put something original on your business card.
Whether it’s an interactive component, such as space for the recipient to jot down notes about a project you discussed, or it has a link to your blog instead of just your phone number, engaging intellectually with people you’re trying to network with draws positive attention to you. One of the most highly valued qualities in any field is creativity and originality. If you can make your business card into some kind of interesting statement about who you are, it can do wonders to help people remember you. Additionally, you’ll want to give some thought to what kind of card you want to give out if you have more than one job or role. In other words, if you’re a manager by day, but freelancer by night, decide which professional face you want to put forward beforehand.
Networking is all about ingenuity and hard work. The more of an effort you make, the more likely it is that you’ll have a wide and bountiful number of sources to go to for new opportunities, references, or projects. The key, though, is to make sure that you’re memorable and that your passion shines through.