We achieve our greatest success through our relationships with others, which is why building and nurturing a strong professional network is key in helping us along the path to reaching our career goals. There's no time like the present to grow and strengthen our circles, so here are five helpful things you can do to help make that happen!
1. Immerse yourself in the online sphere: Whether you love or hate social media, it's here to stay, and having an online presence is essential in today's world – especially since we just don't have as much time as we'd like to for physically attending events all the time. Ensure you have up-to-date, intriguing bios on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Take care to build a strong personal brand across all of your profiles, one you're proud to use to connect yourself with new people you meet or have yet to meet.
2. Attend events solo: Can't round up any friends to come check out a cool upcoming event with you? No biggie – in fact, it might even be better that your buds are busy that night. Checking out a networking event on your own guarantees that you're going to make new connections, since your only two options are to break out of your comfort zone and approach strangers or sit/stand in the corner alone.
3. Follow up: Forgetting to follow-up after making a great connection essentially makes it as if the encounter never even happened. Make a lasting impression by sending a thoughtful email the next day (here's a great article about how to craft the perfect follow-up email), inviting your new pal to connect on LinkedIn with a customized, specific message, and following them on Twitter. I would also suggest tweeting the person to let them know you enjoyed meeting them and look forward to their tweets, so they notice that you're following along.
4. There's no such thing as too much coffee: My personal networking philosophy is have coffee with everyone. It takes 15-30 minutes and you can find something in common with or learn from anyone, regardless of whether or not their discipline/field seems relevant to yours or not. As legendary ad creative John Hegarty said in this article I love, “You've got to read stuff outside your comfort zone, as well as doing the things you love. You can pick up a business article, get a creative angle on it and find the solution in creativity.” I find the same holds true for talking with people in different industries or fields.
5. Your network is like a garden. If you don't water your garden, in time your plants and flowers will wilt and die. Similarly (not quite to that dramatic of an effect, of course), if you ignore your network, it will begin to disappear. Keep that from happening by scheduling a weekly recurring time in your calendar where to reach out to a few people you haven't talked to in a while, catch up on what's happening with your connections on LinkedIn, or send a few emails. Setting aside even 30 minutes a week will help you stay on top of what's happening with your people, making it easier to do business with them or ask for support when needed down the road.