7 tips for creating meaningful professional networks

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Climbing the ladder of success is as much about making the right connections at the right time as it is about hard work. Personal connections and longstanding relationships run the business world, and there is no getting around it. As rightly put by Meg Jay, Author of The Defining Decade, “It’s the people we hardly know, and not our closest friends, who will improve our lives most dramatically.” Effective networking could land you your next big project, a dream job and even efficient resources for your business.

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Here are seven things you need to do in order to expand your professional circle:

Offer a helping hand

If you’ve just met a potential business contact, don’t jump the gun and immediately start asking for favours. This will create a very bad impression, and you could end up losing the connection even before you’ve gained one. Business always involves a give and take relationship, so try and show them how they are set to benefit by connecting with you and how you could build a mutually rewarding association. If you don’t have a genuine interest in the person with whom you’re trying to connect, there’s just no point in trying at all, because, as Dale Carnegie said in How to Win Friends and Influence People, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

Be persistent

Like everything else in life, creating a new business connection doesn’t come easy. If you haven’t heard from them after your first email, try again. If they did not answer your first call, ring them up again. An unreturned email or phone call doesn’t mean that you’re being ignored. Another avenue you can try is to find out if they’re attending any business seminars, so that you can show up at the venue for a quick follow-up in person. Following up is key to making your presence felt.

Connect with people close to them

It’s no secret that you’re in a more advantageous position if you’ve been referred to someone through a mutual relation. A personal reference tends to increase credibility in the eyes of the person you’re trying to connect with. Therefore, it is important to look into your social network and find someone who could introduce you to the individual you’ve been trying to get in touch with.

Join and participate in LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn is the most popular professional social networking service, and you’re bound to find important connections here. One good way of doing so is by joining groups related to your industry, since a lot of experts are already engaging with each other there. Be an active participant by sharing your opinions and views; ask the right questions and comment on relevant posts. No one’s going to notice you if you’re nowhere near the heart of the action.

Create a culture of conversation among employees

Ensure that your employees are spending time with each other. This allows them to build a healthy relationship with each other, fostering a work culture where everyone is communicating. Conversations not only lead to new connections, but also inspire ideas and innovation. Encourage them to ask questions and to explore opportunities beyond their own walls for new ideas.

Be thoughtful

Don’t underestimate the power of simple but kind gestures. Remember your connections’ birthdays and anniversaries and send out a card or flowers, or both. A personal note on these special occasions shows that you value the relationship even outside of work and business. If you want to make it a longstanding relationship, such honest actions work wonders.

Look beyond your comfort zone

Most people think that new connections can be found only within their own business circle. However, when you broaden your vision and seek relationships with people from other walks of life, you will be genuinely surprised at how many doors can open up. Apart from gaining access to new contacts from your own industry, you will also get introduced to newer talents from different fields. This can help you in ways you hadn’t imagined before.

Networking is all about having a meaningful conversation with the right person at the right time. This can happen in a park at lunch time, at the gym, or anyplace else. Don’t limit your networking to your field of work, jobsite and seminars. Remember that a future opportunity can step in from any corner, and it might be closer than you think.

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