Best practices for networking is always be networking! NEVER EVER STOP.
I encourage people to always be networking, even if they are not currently looking for a new job. Often times we work for companies who encourage networking internally which may give us tunnel vision and exclude external networking. Networking outside of your company is critical.
Having connections throughout all areas of your life is valuable. Your network can be utilized for support, bench-marking, idea sharing, someone to complain to regarding politics you encounter, and even open doors for you. Stay in touch with your network. Be strategic.
Make a list of your network and determine a ranking system of the people you know. Highlight the people who are most influential, in leadership positions or who work at companies for which you want to work for. Reach out to those people first. Make a commitment to yourself to always be networking. Not only when you are looking for a new job…you should even do this when you have a job you love.
This may sound daunting however, you can make it simple. Set a goal to send 1 email/1 text message/1 phone call/Facebook message, etc., to someone in your network once a week. Set another goal to meet with 1 person in your network for coffee, happy hour, lunch, dinner once a month. This will keep networking top of mind and continue your action of being committed to always be networking. More times than not, people will be thrilled to hear from you and will be happy to help!
There are hundreds of ways to network with others. Attending networking events, conferences, trade shows, meet ups, church groups, etc. Set goals prior to the event. For example, when I go to a networking event, I bring a handful of business cards, and I do not leave until they are all gone. A simple goal may be to talk to one person you do not know and connect with them on LinkedIn.
The most important thing is to not wait, START TODAY.
If you need extra motivation, build in rewards for yourself as you write out your goals. For example, if you have a goal of meeting 5 people in person for coffee, once you have accomplished your goal, treat yourself! Buy yourself your favorite treat or a special item to celebrate....and always be networking!
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