Be clear on your networking goals so that you pick groups meaningful to you. Networking events might center on learning, making business contacts or volunteering. Visit groups that match your interests and needs to learn if they are a fit for you. Keep in mind that it's all about being authentic and building trusting relationships. Groups that will work for you have people who are supportive of each other. The right conversation in a networking setting can show others that you are a powerful resource.
If you are different in some ways from others doing the same thing, be able to explain the differences to get referrals. Follow through quickly and professionally on any referrals you are given. Your response is a reflection on the person who recommended you, and respecting that will help your referrals grow. When you meet someone who might benefit from what you do, call and ask to get together to share ideas.
Don't dismiss anyone as irrelevant; going beyond your industry in networking can connect you with a variety of interesting people. Some may end up being valuable business contacts, while others will become friends or open you up to possibilities you might never have considered. As time goes by, you will find you have connections with people who share your interests in business and leisure activities, and you can decide which relationships are worth pursuing.
A powerful way to enhance your network is by connecting like-minded people. Keep it simple: Just provide introductions among those who share common interests, then let them decide if they choose to build on the relationship.
Don't neglect the relationships you already have. While most people think of networking as reaching out to new people, sharing useful information with your current friends and coworkers builds a great support system for you both personally and professionally. Strengthening bonds is easy among individuals with whom you already have close contact.
Network with the intention of helping other people. The best way to build trust is to engage others in a helpful way. Building trust takes time, but any insincerity will take a long time to overcome. Working on a project with someone is an excellent way to forge a relationship.
Networking can certainly enhance your professional career, but here's the bonus: It can connect you to others who may become important to you personally — and who may spark an idea that could lead you in an exciting new direction!
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