Networking is not easy. Not only do you need to keep an inventory of who you know, you also need to put effort into maintaining those relationships. Like plants, your business relationships require nourishment to become stronger. Here's just a few key characteristics of a smart networker:
Understand that people are not merely a means to an end.
Once you have figured out their career aspirations, you should strive to check in with them once a month to A) provide them with something of value and B) Check on their wellbeing. Both can be accomplished by doing a little research into their specific field or business. A quick internet search can yield an industry-related article or opportunity that might prove helpful to your contact. You might also try to find out if there are any specific hardships that the person might be facing in their current role.
Above all, remember that networking is not a one-way street. Return favors and favors will be returned to you.
Be broad in developing your network
A network, by definition, is a group of interconnected people. If we subscribe to the school of thought that says that everyone is connected in some way, it makes sense that if you continue to grow your network, you will eventually come into contact with someone with the power to help you land your dream job.
So what does this look like when put into practice? If someone in your network doesn't have the ability to help you with something, ask if they know of someone who does. Like any successful business (and you should be thinking of your career path as a business) referrals are pivotal in creating residual gain.
Don’t forget the value of both face-to-face and online networking
In today's high technology world, it is easy to hide behind a computer. But would you trust someone with your finances that you had never met in person? If you only network online, you are essentially asking them to place their hard-earned reputation on the line for little to no return.
On the other hand, you should not write off the power of online networking either. Those that think in-person networking events are the be-all end-all are limiting the power of their network (see point number two).
Don’t forget to say thanks
We've all had it happen: an email conversation that just kind of fizzles out. You might reason that since you have already acquired the information you need, why go through the trouble of responding? It seems so mechanical, so unnatural.
Do it anyway.
Send a brief thank you note for what the other party has done, no matter how trivial. Good manners are engraved in American culture and while it may seem to be somewhat of a lost art, people still take notice when you go out of your way to offer your gratitude.
If you have trouble remembering to stay in contact, consider creating a calendar for your professional acquaintances. LinkedIn also has an app specifically designed to help you to stay in contact with your network. Dubbed LinkedIn Connected, it alerts you whenever one of your contacts is celebrating a work anniversary or job change.
Networking might be difficult, but it is a necessary evil for any job seeker. Treat your network with an attitude of amiable respect and you will be bound for the career of your dreams.
Content writer for the Dayton Hispanic Chamber