Get out of your comfort zone
For most of us, initiating contact with people we don’t know is uncomfortable. In terms of professional networking, don’t hesitate to jump in, even if you’re alone. Participating solo may even be an advantage, as you will be more likely to approach others. People will also be more likely to approach you than if you were surrounded by a group of friends. This may be a challenge for the more introverted among us, but this experience will help you grow and gain confidence. Who knows, you may even make new friends!
Connect and share
By meeting professionals from different backgrounds, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about companies or fields you may not necessarily think about. Take an interest in the paths taken by your peers and take the time to make a connection. It’s not a matter of just exchanging business cards or eating free hors-d’oeuvres.
Be positive and friendly
Be genuine and take an interest in the people you’re speaking with. You may have to interact with people whose opinions may differ from yours. You can present your case, but engage in positive interactions and avoid starting a debate.
Maintain the relationship
Add your new contacts, and your former coworkers and school friends on LinkedIn. That way, you can stay on top of what’s happening with them professionally, and maybe even contact them to attend a professional event together. If a career opportunity that fits their profile becomes available at your company, you can easily forward it to them. What do you want to bet that they would do the same for you?
Network in other ways
When we think about networking, we often think about activities organized by groups or professional orders. Group training, mentorship, sporting or cultural events and volunteering will help you meet people from other companies and may be good ways to grow your network. Joining and participating in professional discussion groups may also help you make contact with other professionals in your field.
Don’t wait until you’re looking for a job to participate in networking activities. Enriching your professional circle is a strategy that pays off in the long term, and sometimes when you don’t expect.