Why bother? Creating links, building rapport, connecting dots is what networking is all about. This includes meeting and interacting with people to build a relationship that will prove useful sometime in the future. Be relentless in getting to know people who might be useful, take advantage of them in the way you need to. The most value from people is derived from people you meet or know informally, not your friends or family.Networks. Be active in professional networks, both virtually and locally. This includes organizations and groups related to your work, your age or your education. Alumni organizations are great ways to connect with people who have a defined commonality. Job type or designation organizations are rallied around certain job professions and will be the most in tune when a new job or opportunity in your relevant field opens up.
Prepare a pitch. Have a short pitch, 30 seconds or less, about yourself. A brief overview of what you have done and what you hope to do. This should also be easily converted into text format for messaging or emails. Rehearse this pitch and reiterate it as needed. You should have a pitch for particular audiences.
Be visible. Networking is not complete without social networking. Have your social networking sites in order, including Twitter, LinkedIn, and in some respects Facebook. Mainly, have your LinkedIn profile filled out. You are more likely to get a return email or follow up call if people can find out who you are, and can get to 'know' beforehand. This is why it is important to both have complete and high level profiles.
Using social media; use wisely. Have separate connections and acquaintances depending on your social media service. For example, you will have uniquely different friends and connections across Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. As a result be mindful of what you post and share across these sites.
Do not be annoying, but do be persistent. If someone will not return your call, email or appears to ignore you at networking events, they may not be that interested in you. Then again they might be busy or just not know enough about you. This is why it is important to have a high level pitch as well as complete social profiles. If you are not having luck with getting your 'foot in the door' alone, ask for a common acquaintance to introduce you or work your way into their daily lives. You should not send them daily emails or messages, but start elsewhere in the company or network with others who interact with your target and build a rapport there. As well, be interactive beyond email and calls. Be interactive. Blogs, group conversations (such as those on LinkedIn), Twitter; interact on these platforms, but be sure to add value. This is a great way to communicate and network with like-minded individuals, but also to interact subtlety with people you would like to know.
Intros and referrals. Get intros and referrals to further your network. There is an art to asking for an introduction. The first key is to have a need and use for the person you want an intro to, and not for simply adding them to your Rolodex. Also, make it less committal. People do not like to feel obligated, and so whether or it is asking for an intro, a favor, a meeting, make it the least obligatory as possible.
Keep it simple. When asking for favors within your network, make it as simple as possible. People have trouble saying no, as long as the request is reasonable. Thus, when you do get ready to leverage someone and ask them for a favor keep it reasonable. This also opens the door for being ask for future favors, as your connections may be more than willing to help knowing that you are not going to ask them to introduce you to the CEO of IBM.
Return the favor. Show that your network you can be useful to them, and that you do not expect something for nothing. This will make them much more willing to help you. When possible, offer to help out with a service or provide feedback, or refer someone to them.
Be prepared. Know something about the person you are meeting or interacting with. In the current age of endless information, a simple search will provide various results either on Twitter, LinkedIn or other, possibly interesting, facts. Find a topic to jump-start a conversation or exchange. This involves focusing on the details and knowing about their hobby, past work experiences, and more. This deepens your relationship and helps build rapport.
Show progress. When keeping in contact with your connections and network always show traction. When following up on a meeting, intro or just trying to keep in touch let them know what you have been up to and milestones you might have achieved.
Respect other people's time. If scheduling a meeting or call always be mindful of the other person's time and mention the time you expect to take up (usually not more than 30 minutes). That way they know what to expect and if you stick to your time limit they will be more likely to take a second meeting or call.
Network before you need to. Do not wait until you need help to start trying to network. Be forward about searching for what you might need for future connections. You would not start looking for gas the moment your car was completely out; plan ahead.
Conferences and networking events. If the event or conference is popular there is sure to be a large number of people there to meet. However, the question is whether these people are worth your time. Make sure the event is relevant to your networking goals and you have a defined goal going in.
Follow up. Be prompt on the follow up. If following up from a conference or networking event, refresh their memory on who you are and what you discussed, this will help them place you and validate yourself. If appropriate, follow up with additional info, whether it is what you are working on or what you are doing. Do not forget to follow up with connectors and refers. These are the people who may have introduced you to a contact or invited you to a conference. This way they will be more inclined to help in the future. Also, be sure to mention if it was or was not useful, this way they will not waste their or your time in the future, however, you want to do this delicately as to not offend them.
Manage your network. Whether this is with your rolodex or CRM software, keep notes. Always be iterating on your network, this includes knowing who is in your network and how you can possibly help them. When possible, offer to help people. Even though you may have connected with someone in hopes of leveraging them, if you can find a way to assist them, do it. There is no better way to get help from someone than to have first helped them.
Quality versus quantity. With the increased ease of networking and reaching a large number of people, you must make the distinction between quality and quantity. Although having 500 people in your network may sound like a good thing, it can be very productive. If people see you as a person who is simply looking to them to your Rolodex without having a more meaningful relationship you will be perceived in a negative light. Also, make sure the connections are quality enough that you would want them to speak on your behalf, or that you would be willing to speak on their behalf. Reciprocity is one of the best drivers of a high level network, so be sure you surround yourself with people that you respect and admire.
The importance of in-person. One of the age old ways to build rapport is in-person, possibly over meals or coffee. However, be mindful of who you ask to an in-person meeting, as this usually requires time commitments and is not as flexible as an email response. Some of the people you connect with may have families and so a dinner invitation is usually out of the question. However, being able to have a meal or coffee will make the meeting more social. The simplest thing to do is to limit your in-person meeting to coffee, or if they are busy, ask to drop by their office (and bring coffee). Assuming you will be the one benefiting most from the meeting always travel the farthest and inconvenience them the least.
Networking beyond a new job. Networking can benefit you in a number of ways. In the general sense, most people consider networking to keep their options open in case they decide to search for a job. However, networking can be useful for many other purposes, including advancement within your current job, for example, using your contacts or network to help with a work project. Networking is also great for recruiting potential employees or clients and potential customers.
Value of networking. If you are job hunting, some of the best jobs are never posted on job boards but are filled from personal connections. This is precisely why you need to be one of those personal connections. For jobs that are looking to hire for a key role, many managers and executives will use their personal connections to first fill the role.