What is networking?
We all know that one person who has those 'connects' - who can get you into that notable club, bar, event, concert, or company with just a phone call or text. Imagine if you could be that person?
Google defines networking as "the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts."
Why is networking important?
In my experience, building up a network has been the most important 'asset' I have to date. It's what's helped me:
Networking may seem daunting, but it's actually not as hard as you think it is... but it WILL require you to stretch outside your comfort zone at times.
But just like anything, the more work you put into nurturing your connections, taking a genuine interest in others, and being of service, the more your network will grow.
How do I network?
1. Use LinkedIn
Right off the bat, the first step I'd recommend is creating a LinkedIn profile if you haven't already. LinkedIn is a social media platform for business AND it's also a great place to find jobs, resources, and learn new skills through their teaching portal.
You'll want to fill it out to the best of your ability - add a photo, description, your work history, achievements, etc. The more information, the better and more credible you seem.
When I first joined LinkedIn at age 23, I mass-added people that I knew from high school, college, and any jobs I had up to that point. Whenever I started a new job, I added almost every single person I came in contact with too.
The reason for this is because when you 'connect' with someone on LinkedIn, you now have a connection to that persons' contacts indirectly. This can increase your chances of gaining exposure to recruiters looking to hire candidates just like you.
I will be posting an extensive how-to on leveraging LinkedIn in the future!
2. Start genuine conversations on social sites
Whether it's on LinkedIn (recommended), Facebook or Instagram, you can build your social network by contributing to any conversation in a meaningful way.
Liking a post ain't gonna cut it... but asking a question on a post or messaging someone directly is a great start!
For example, if you saw that someone you know is a guest speaker on a webinar, and you may want to try doing that one day, you can congratulate them AND ask them how they were able to obtain that opportunity (was it hard? what skills did you need to do this?, etc.).
3. Attend an event in your area or a city of interest
Yes, it can be a little awkward and semi-cringey to show up to a group event, but know that most people are in the same boat.
Pro Tip: If you come prepared to the event by taking inventory of how you can be of service to others, you'll immediately stand out from the crowd.
Everyone goes to these events to better themselves, but what if you could help THEM by offering to share a connection, resource, or skillset that would aid that person in achieving their dreams? Promise, they'll NEVER forget you, and they'll be a life-long connection who's always willing to help.
4. Talk to people around you
Seems simple enough, but this will REALLY make you uncomfortable (in the best way).
When I was in my early twenties, I challenged myself to talk to someone new every day. I once saw someone on the subway who was reading a book I wanted to read, so I asked him how it was - we had an awesome conversation AND it made my day better (win-win).
Another easy one is giving genuine compliments. I often was in the kitchen at work getting coffee or water so I'd make 'small talk' with whoever was there - sometimes this would look like giving a compliment to their outfit, water bottle, or something they did internally (i.e. saw that they gave a talk, etc.).
Now, whenever we run into each other, we have more in-depth conversations and have created a business relationship.
Even if you don't get a 'LinkedIn connection' out of moments like these, you'll become a better conversationalist and be more comfortable around strangers.
5. Offer to help
If you're eager to get to learn a new skill or be 'in the room' with the type of people you want to be surrounded by, offer to help.
Most people need help in some way shape or form, so you extending a hand without being asked will show that person how serious you are.
What if you offered to be a note-taker while a busy executive attended a meeting? You'd not only learn a TON, but that person would find you valuable (and maybe one day be your employer or an advocate for you getting a raise as a result).
There are so many ways you can be of help, you just have to be creative in the way you provide it.
Congrats! You've started your journey on growing your network!
I hope it helps you! Reach out if you have any questions or suggestions!
Gabrielle Ianniello is the Founder of The Adulting Manual and the host of the Corporate Quitter Podcast. When she's not adulting, she enjoys reading, making art, hiking, and Mario Kart.