Straight from the Lab

Peer interaction and knowledge sharing can have a far-reaching impact on your career.

Whether you’re looking for a new job or next-level opportunities to grow a business, building your network is time and energy well spent. Nothing can replace the human connection, and a face-to-face conversation, handshake, or mutual experience is an important step to creating professional bonds. Here are seven easy-to-implement tips for successful networking.

  1. Commit to Putting in the Work

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a successful network won’t develop overnight. Commit to attending events on a regular basis, and not just to make an appearance. As New York Times bestselling businessman Grant Cardone explains, “Just attending an event will not create a network. You must do the work. Reach out, be social, and have sales skills.”

  1. Set Your Schedule

Making new connections takes time. Does your schedule allow you to attend an event once a week or once a month? Identify which events have the potential to be the most beneficial and make those a priority. If time permits, pencil in other events.

Even when you feel that your busy schedule doesn’t warrant the time to network, it’s important to think outside of the box. Networking can come in many forms, whether it be through social media, such as LinkedIn, volunteering, attending church, or even shopping at your local grocery or department store. Be sure to set realistic expectations and schedule what you can handle without becoming overwhelmed.

  1. Think Outside Your Comfort Zone

If you attend a function where you already know everyone, then it’s a party. By limiting your network, you’re hindering your exposure to new people and new ideas. Stretch your comfort zone by showing up at a place where you can mine the potential to meet people in other industries, organizations, or positions that have a tangential connection to your industry, organization, or expertise. For example, if you’re in the medical field, you might look at attending an event focused on sports, or even health and wellness.

  1. Remember Your Goal

No matter where you are in your career, there are many reasons why it’s critical to build your network. Networking provides the forum for sharing industry knowledge and best practices, identifying potential partners and vendors, or sparking an idea that turns into a new product or service. In addition to these benefits, networking can also drive new job leads or client contacts. By actively expanding your network, you have exposure to new voices that can help keep your business and skills relevant and current.

  1. Speak Your Truth

Just as it’s important to hear what others have to say, remember that those same people are networking to learn about you. Be prepared to discuss your value proposition to share your credibility and expertise. This isn’t a time to brag, but rather casually explain your contributions to an industry or cause.

Rehearse who you are and what you do so that you’re not caught off guard when someone asks about your experience. Potential opportunities lie around every corner, so be prepared to make the most of career and peer connections.

  1. Check In

Once you’ve exchanged contact information, commit to checking in with your contacts. Maybe it’s just an email every quarter; maybe it’s lunch once a month. Establish a cadence to communicate with your contacts on a regular basis. Not only does this effort show others you’re engaged, it gives them the opportunity to share new information that could have a positive impact on your career.

  1. Boost Your Knowledge Base

Knowledge welcomes opportunity. What better way to learn than by taking classes from the experts? In addition to increasing your skills, classes are a productive way to meet other professionals. Even when the classes are virtual, you still can generate connections that lead to future conversations with other like-minded individuals.

ACU iDea lab provides a comprehensive list of classes designed to help professionals in all industries across every stage of their careers. Some of the most popular classes include “Goal Setting and Achieving,” Critical Thinking and Problem Solving,” “Emotional Intelligence,” and “Sales Fundamentals.”

Networking is one of the most direct ways to boost your career. Put in the time to effectively expand your circle and knowledge – and watch for new opportunities.

Learn more about iDea Lab’s world-class learning and development resources for individuals and businesses.