Networking allows you to build relationships that will advance your work and career. Your network consists of warm contacts, people you really know, and cold contacts that you know via other people. You use your network for information, advice, an introduction or a reference to help you. Networking is always two-way and it is not just focused on immediate results. Some tips:
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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 work field
Who is who? What are they doing? What do they support? 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. Which projects are running or are being considered? Look at the projects developed by colleagues, competitors or future employers and follow the trends in your field by reading professional literature, digital newsletters and participate in relevant workshops and courses.
The start of your network begins where you are looking the least: in your immediate vicinity. You know people who can mention you at the right moment for a particular task or project. These ambassadors are your fellow students, family members, visiting lecturers or people with whom you have worked before. It is important that you maintain good relationships with ambassadors.
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.
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.
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.