“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

You have probably heard this age-old saying countless times during the job search, and for the right reason. It pertains to something that many people are afraid of – networking. While it can certainly be a daunting experience, networking is not only important during the job search, but also for career development. There is a multitude of advice out there, but finding the right tips and tricks that work for you can be a challenge.

Although you might dread networking for a variety of reasons (it is awkward, not your personality, time-consuming, etc.), the importance of establishing and building a network cannot be stressed enough. Effective networking can not only help you land a job, but also lead to increased business opportunities and influence your career trajectory. Networking can certainly affect your professional career, in addition to providing a confidence boost and improving your skill set to foster personal growth as well.

Unfortunately for the anti-networking crowd, it does not stop once you’ve landed a job. You should continuously network even within your current company, especially if you work in a big office environment. After all, you never know what conversation could lead to a promotion or raise. When it comes down to it, you should always be networking throughout the entirety of your career.

If you consider yourself a “pro-networker” or your networking skills could use some polishing, our friends over at TopResume have some tips on how to become an effective networker. Check them out in our “crash course” below:

Figure Out What Networking Style Works Best For You

Just like our varying definitions of what it takes to be “successful,” there is no “one size fits all” approach to networking. What works for me, might not work for you; what works for you, might not work for your coworker.

Depending on your personality there are different ways to network. If you’re an introvert, for example, you might be uncomfortable in large, group networking settings. Instead, a one-on-one informational interview over coffee might be more your speed. On the other end of the spectrum, extroverts might thrive in the group environment since they have the opportunity to meet, and speak to, as many people as they see fit. Once you figure out your ideal style, you can ramp up your networking efforts and continue your career development.

Network Outside The Box

Similar to the no “one size fits all” approach, there is no set-in-stone way to network. Sure, there are a variety of networking events you can attend ranging from happy hours, to networking “speed dating,” but it can be even simpler. By definition, networking is “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.” Based on this, you can network any time, anywhere from attending an alumni event from your college or even in line at Starbucks.

Make A Game Plan

Once you figure out what networking style works best for you, it is time to figure out how you’re going to put your skills to the test. Amanda Augustine of TopResume recommends heading into each opportunity with a goal. For example, connecting with three new people at an event. Having a game plan puts a tangible goal on your efforts so you can measure how effective your efforts were.

Follow Up

One of the most important, but also most forgotten aspects of an interview is the follow up. The same rings true for networking. Regardless of how well your conversation went with the individual, they likely have a lot going on (as do you), so following up brings you to the front of their mind again. This can be as simple as sending a LinkedIn request thanking them for their time.

Pay It Forward

Chances are you did not get where you are today without a little help from your network. Because of this, giving back and offering opportunities to help those who were once in your shoes can be a way of paying it forward. Additionally, through your conversations with people you can gain insight into what they’re looking for in their career. If you come across a helpful article, or another introduction to another person in your network, helping out is never a bad idea.

Wrap Up

Networking is one aspect of career development and growth that is often overlooked once we get into our careers. Whether you realize it or not, we are always networking, regardless of professional setting. You never know when you’ll have a conversation that leads to new opportunities for both professional and personal growth. With these tips, you can be an effective networker regardless of your personality type.

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