Aside from the champagne and the purchase of a new gym membership, the new year marks the perfect time to reflect on your networking habits over the past year and determine what did and didn't work for you. Think back… what changes do you need to make for the future? What do you wish you did more of last year? Less of? Here are a few suggestions for the year ahead:
1. Drink more coffee
Making connections online is important, but nothing beats face-to-face relationship building. Take your relationships offline by scheduling plenty of coffee dates. It'll expand your network, and it's fun!
Recite your elevator pitch to yourself in the mirror. Does it still do the trick, or is it maybe time for a bit of a refresh? New year, new you – spice it up, switch it up, perfect it.
Networking shouldn’t be a popularity contest – it’s quality, not quantity. Having a vast network is nice, but don’t spend too much of your energy trying to maintain relationships with the people that you don’t truly feel a connection with. Much like being choosy about which networking events you attend, it's a good idea to carefully select who needs to be in your network so you can focus on those people.
Nurture your network by using Outlook (or any contact management program) to record details about your contacts and your interactions with them. It’s tough to remember the little specifics about all of the people you know, and there’s no shame in writing them down. There’ll never come a time when someone won’t appreciate you remembering their spouse’s name, favorite hobby or what you chatted about last time you bumped into each other.
6. Develop a habit of connecting others
Surely you’ve had someone connect you with someone they thought could help you in some way. It’s nice, right? Okay, your turn. One of the main goals of networking is to help other people, so try and get in the habit of making introductions. Next time you meet someone or see someone you know, take a minute to consider if there’s anybody in your network that should also be in theirs. If you’re unsure of whether or not they want to be connected, ask! Even if they aren’t interested, they’ll appreciate the offer.
Stay in a constant networking mindset by making an effort to reach out to one new person per day (or a few per week, whatever seems reasonable/ makes sense to you). Not everyone will get back to you, but if you’re reaching out to that many people, you’re going to have significant progress in growing your network.