Not all networking connections are the same. Some are fleeting — disappearing into thin air before they ever take hold. Some turn out to be useful and then fade away. But then there are those very special networking relationships that last far into your career future.
And when is the best time to start? When you need a job? When your career is rapidly sinking into the toilet? If you wait until you really need the networking connection, it might turn out to be a flimsy one.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t mobilize when the career red light starts blinking. But you’ll have that all-important head start if you already have people to turn to right away. So the best time to start is NOW!
⇒ EXTRA: Why Networking Matters So Darn Much
Some tips for building long-lasting networking connections
First and foremost, be yourself. If you hand a person a bunch of statements you think they want to hear, it doesn’t leave you much room to grow anything — except boring conversation.
Be sincere. People can feel when you’re gaming them. Even if they respond politely or have their own game going, real relationships break through when something real passes between two people.
Remember some things about them. Which means you need to really listen and be interested enough in them to find out more about who they are — beyond just the old standard “What do you do?” Not that you can’t start there if you feel tongue-tied.
Be memorable. I’m not suggesting you do a cartwheel or anything like that, although that would be memorable. But maybe share an interesting observation. Or tell a fun story that’s uniquely you — and also one they might relate to, using what you’ve learned.
Find experiences or people you have in common. If you already see them looking around or you’re not getting good eye contact or responses, this may not get you far. Not everyone is going to be a good connection fit. But if you do feel some mutual chemistry, look for interests you might share or people / organizations you both know.
Follow up with offers to help THEM. Think about anything that might be useful to them — information, new opportunities, someone they might want to meet. Or maybe just a fun tidbit based on something you discussed. Not in a pushy way. Just anything that might make them think “this is a thoughtful person.”
The best networking connections
are a two-way street.
Remember that strong relationships usually build slowly. Don’t rush things. or feel impatient if you get minimal responses. You never know what time may bring. That’s why starting now is the best time.
What about LinkedIn for building networking relationships?
With the reminder that we’re talking about building connections and not just making them, LinkedIn can be a great starting point. You can find people in industries you’re interested in or specific companies you have an eye on. Perhaps people you once worked with or fellow alumni.
But don’t just think everyone you ask to connect with you is going to say yes. Still, as with any opportunity in life, sometimes it only takes one good “yes”. From the Work To The Wise Career Dictionary:
“When extending an invitation, it helps to be polite and offer a good reason they might be interested – such as a mutual connection, interest, or group you have in common. You can also message them to explain more about yourself. But again … if they say no or don’t even respond, it’s not about you.”
For more about using LinkedIn click here.
A few more thoughts
In my own career, networking connections — turning to relationships that endured through what feels like many lifetimes — often saved the career day for me. And the best thing was, I was then able to be there for them later when they needed help.
I can think of at least 7 separate career opportunities that opened up because of relationships I built over time. And also a few that built quickly in a short time when I was in full job search mode. But even some of those lived on to see another day.
So think about it Is there any area of interest or future career move where a strong new connection might help you? Never too early to open yourself up to new relationships that can last a career lifetime.
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