6 strategies to improve your professional networking skills
‘It is good to rub, and polish our brain against that of others…’
Most of us are experts at playing the numbers game. It served us well when we applied to those 25 colleges or graduate school programs. When it became time for a job, it’s understandable why many are tempted to find refuge in this ‘tried and proven’ approach. And with the proliferation of job sites, that approach is now easier than ever: 1 afternoon on LinkedIn or Indeed; 50 job postings answered; 20 emails sent; 25 new connections! Not a bad day’s work, right?
Meanwhile, at the receiving end of these impressive metrics is the HR recruiter: 1 person; 2 roles; 500 generic (very qualified) applicants; and 0 interest in tackling that tsunami. But the issue is not only with the sheer number of applicants. Additionally, many of the soft skills, which are important in evaluating a candidate, are not easily discerned from a resume. The answer to both problem? Quality networking!
Quality networking goes beyond simply knowing people. It’s about making close connections, and establishing oneself as a resource. Ultimately, it’s about establishing a strong personal brand.
Here, I will highlight some key strategies that will be helpful in creating a compelling personal brand as you continue to grow your personal and professional network.
- Get clear on your personal brand
Before you embark on building a personal brand, you first need to decide what that your brand will look like. Being strategic and consistent will be crucial if you are to be effective and efficient. You need to decide who you are, what you stand for (in your career and life), and have a clear vision of where you want to be in the future. The answer to these questions will determine how to go about approaching new networking opportunities: What events to attend, what opportunities to priorities, or what skills to acquire or improve upon.
- Just do it
Ideas, plans, goals, etc., are nothing but wishful thinking, and are useless unless executed. Always follow each plan with careful execution. Plan. Execute. Fail. Adjust/pivot. Repeat until successful.
- Make relevant connections
It’s important that your connections are relevant and mutually benefiting. Resources like Scircle were created to make it easy to discover events in your field, but do not be afraid to branch out and seek/offer new perspectives
- It’s also What You Know
I have worked in the pharmaceutical industry for many years, and benefited tremendously from having made the right connections at different junctures in my career. My own version of an old adage, “it’s who knows what you know!” succinctly captured my experience of being afforded certain unique opportunities that others, equally qualified, were not. The ‘who’ and ‘what’ are not only important, but are inextricably linked. Make time for continuous learning and self-improvement, and seek opportunities to show off this growth to your peers
- Use Social Media
Social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Scircle and Twitter are great networking tools. Use them. If you do, spend some time to keep them updated and consistent with your brand. However, do not rely on social media at the expense of face-to-face interactions. Oh, and remember that after that face-to-face-meetings, the next move will be to check your LinkedIn profile.
Extend your reach by leveraging the voice of influencers and industry leaders. At the same time, build and reinforce your own credibility and domain expertise by sharing your views and perspectives on specific topics.
- Give more, take less
Building any relationship comes down to always giving more than you receive — or at least trying to always give as much. And while you are busy connecting with people who you think can take you and your career to the next level, don’t forget those for whom you can do the same.