6 easy skills that anyone can use to improve their network

Networking can be tough at the best of times. In 2020, making new business relationships and connecting with new people in real life has been so much harder.

Still, the power of networking cannot be underestimated. This is especially true in the age of social media where our LinkedIn profiles are almost as important as our resumes.

If you want to make better business connections, read on to see our strategy on how to network with results.

Table of contents

What do you want out of your network?

Before you print heaps of business cards, or invest in the big ticket networking events, you should ask yourself one simple question: What’s my goal here?

To ensure the effort you are putting into meeting people is going somewhere, you should clearly define what you want to get out of making new connections. Some common networking goals are:

  • Looking for work, so reaching out to potential clients or recruiters.
  • Looking for mentors that could guide your journey.
  • Looking to gain authority, yourself, as a “Thought leader” in your field.

Whatever your objective, you should tailor your networking efforts to target the kind of people you need to meet. This can save a lot of wasted time and effort in the long run, which means you won’t be burnt out when the time comes to attend another event. Don’t forget, you’re looking for quality connections, not just spamming people for quantity.

Connect with people where they will feel comfortable.

Everyone has a preferred time and method of communication. Forgetting this is often the reason behind many cold emails going unanswered or even bridges burnt by poorly timed calls.

The reality is everyone is busy. In order for them to stop what they are doing and take the time to connect with you, you need to engage with them in the correct way. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula here. It’s all about doing a little research to understand the type of person you are trying to reach.

For example, If you are trying to connect with a busy CEO then it’s unlikely an unscheduled phone call (assuming you even have their number) would be successful. Here, connecting over several emails might be the best strategy, to make sure you have their attention.

This can be an art in itself, but observation can help. If your potential connection is always on social media a DM might be more valuable than an email.

Add value to each connection

How many times have you had a person message you out of the blue, only to immediately start asking you for something. It’s not nice and makes the whole process of networking seem very transactional. The best way to forge a strong bond is to give before you take. There are loads of ways you can add value to a new connection.

  1. Sharing a useful article related to their field or hobby.
  2. Reaching out to them for pro bono work.
  3. Sharing or reposting their social media if it is relevant.

Referring them to someone who could potentially solve a problem for them.

It can be easy to fixate on someone’s public profile and forget that they’re still human at the end of the day. Spamming them with questions and useless information and you’ll lose all credibility. Take the time to connect and you’ll see the results pay back later on down the line when you reach out to them for help.

Have you considered who you already know?

We can get so caught up in the process of acquiring new connections, that we forget who we already know.

Set some time aside to go through your existing network and see who you could reconnect with. This could be the people you used to work with, your friends or even your old school mates.

If you don’t know where to start, it can be as simple as asking on social media. A quick post asking for recommendations can bring answers you could never have imagined, especially referrals from a friend of a friend.

Another thing to consider while examining your current network is identifying any gaps you might have. When trying to connect with people, we gravitate to those who match our own experiences and circumstances. If your current network is made up from people of the same gender, culture or background then consider diversifying. Different perspectives can bring important insights to your business.

Spruce up your social media profiles

When was the last time you changed your LinkedIn profile picture? When did you last update your bio or history? Don’t worry, it’s something we are all guilty of.

While we are networking, we can forget to focus on the product we are putting out. It feels a little egotistical to pay special attention to ourselves. However, It’s essential to make sure your profile is fresh and focused on the task at hand.

This goes back to your networking goals. Should your future employers be seeing you as formal and professional, or should you be casual and accessible? Go through your online profiles and consider updating everything, from your bio to your email signature, to make sure you aren’t sending out mixed signals or missing important chances to attract the connection you are looking for.

Pay it forward

Whether you believe in karma or not there is no denying that helping other people in your network is a good thing.

Keep an eye on what your contemporaries are working on and what issues they might be having. Collaboration on a project or connecting the right people is a great way to get in their good books and contributes to a better working atmosphere for everyone.

Paying it forward like this helps your name stick in people’s heads and the next time that you ask for help, it could make all the difference. We are all more likely to vouch for someone who has helped us out in the past.

Even without an end goal in mind, helping your contacts can teach you better ways to identify solutions to common problems. You could even gain insight into an issue you might have in the future.

The takeaway

If you are still avoiding any type of networking, then break down the process into the simple steps above. This’ll tell you if what you’re doing is working, or if you need to head back to the drawing board.

It can be tempting to spend time making new connections, but fostering the business relationships that you already have can be much more productive. Keep your goals in mind and focus on making lasting connections that are beneficial to both sides.