Networking is a marketing tool which allows you to build relationships that will advance your work and career. A professional network gives you understanding how the system of the field in which you operate is organized. It is an unlimited source of information. Think carefully about what you would like to achieve with your network. Some guidelines:
Know your long term and short term goals. What do you want to achieve in your profession? What is your vision, in your field of expertise? What do you wish to create? Who would you like to work with and why? Are you aware of your strengths and shortcomings and what makes you stand out against your competition? Ask yourself what image you would like others to have of you. Others can definitely become a future referee.
Know your (job) market
Who is who? What are they doing? What do they support? Which projects are running or are being considered? Follow the trends in your field by reading professional literature, digital newsletters and participate in relevant workshops and courses. Know who hold important key positions in the marketplace and have access to what you need. Know the rules and regulations linked to financing and promotion of projects.
Membership of a professional organization supplies a wealth of information and is useful to meet contemporaries. They organize theme-nights, network drinks and frequently offer you support in setting up your own business. Remember the graduate societies of your college.
Also join a digital network: this is a relatively anonymous source of information, where you can (temporarily) set up a network around a relevant subject. Social media like Facebook and LinkedIn are also examples of networks you can use.
Make sure others can profit from your network too. Mention the names of others when you feel he or she is perfectly suited for a certain assignment. Networking for others often has a boomerang effect: the person you referred will remember you more likely when a relevant project is coming up.
Networking is taking action
Networking can be characterized by short, but sometimes powerful, get-togethers. A good networker doesn’t just talk shop. Try to find a common interest in a conversation and move on from there. Active listening is your most valuable skill. You sense the right timing to discuss your latest ideas and emphasize your qualities. A contact promises more for the future. It is also better for another to edify you instead of blowing your own trumpet. To keep an effective network, you must work to maintain it. Ring, write or chat regularly with created contacts so they will remember you.