14 of the best networking strategies and where to use them
Updated 7 August 2023
Networking strategies allow you to increase your opportunities within a given industry through your professional contacts. Your communication skills help you create coworker connections who may offer recommendations and referrals regarding potential promotions or job openings. Successful networking benefits each party to achieve their career goals by allowing individuals to recognise their peers' abilities and accomplishments in their field. In this article, we will discuss what networking is and list the best strategies to effectively expand and utilise your professional network.
What are the best networking strategies?
People often overlook the best networking strategies due to their simplicity. Networking itself is a straightforward concept, as the more people you meet in your professional life creates more connections and offers more opportunities for growth, development and promotion. Your communication skills enable you to meet and relate to your peers within your industry, who keep your contact in turn. The most important aspect of networking isn't even to make an egregious effort to be social.
These professional contacts are mutually beneficial and are therefore worth maintaining and often effortless in nature. Simply being friendly to the individuals around you introduces them to your character and allows you to learn theirs as well. Keep them on your mind whenever you hear about a job opportunity or achievements in their field and they will do the same for you. The golden rule of networking is to be yourself and to treat others well.
Related: Networking tips for job seekers
14 of the best networking strategies
These networking strategies increase your ability to interact with people throughout your daily life. Your professional network benefits from each of these strategies and you benefit from your network's growth and development. Keep these in mind when you network:
1. Be yourself
Your best qualities are those that make you unique and interesting. Express yourself through your opinions and experiences to others and listen to theirs in time. The strongest connections often come from a place of mutual interest and understanding between two people, and this is equally true within your industry and enterprise.
2. Be active
Spend time nurturing your connections by expressing your priorities and interests to your network. Connect with people regularly. This can be done during breaks or as part of a communications process, such as maintaining your email inbox. Your job becomes more interesting and fulfilling when you are able to maintain active correspondence with other people who have similar roles or face similar situations.
3. Be engaging
Actively engagement is key in maintaining and growing relationships in any capacity, working or otherwise. Just as you share your own experiences and thoughts, strive to actively engage with others as they share theirs in kind. Ask questions about work issues or problems they address. You may find that you have experience or insight that helps them with their issues or that they confront the same experiences that you have traversed in the past or that you will face in the future.
4. Be clear
Express yourself with clear and straightforward language regardless of whether it is through a work email, business report or a quick message to your work acquaintances and friends. Clear communication is a necessary step in understanding your coworkers and being understood by them. If you do have a funny story or a joke to tell, try expressing the main point, before offering an example.
5. Be empathetic
Offer congratulations to your network when they achieve an accomplishment, gain a promotion or when they are otherwise recognised for their quality of work. Offer a safe space to discuss obstacles or issues in their professional life and provide advice when you have experiences similar to theirs. Be attentive to what the people in your network are willing to share with their network and respond to them accordingly, as you would like them to treat you.
6. Be understanding
Let people know they can be themselves around you. Once you let people know that they can have these human responses to understandable circumstances, they may work harder to connect with you and to open their schedules in the future. There may also be unexpected lapses in communication. Understand that this may not mean the end of that connection and be willing to communicate with them when they do reach out.
7. Know why you are networking
There may be several reasons for networking. For your professional network, write down the reasons you would like to build or expand on the professional connections that you have made. Many people network on smaller scales within a specific industry or even within a single city and others choose to network on a larger scale throughout an entire industry or several cities or even internationally.
8. Utilise a plan of action
Write down a plan that includes your reasons for networking, strategies you want to focus on and steps for your professional networking goals. Keep your plan in mind as you finish steps and improve your working relationships in your target company, industry or location. As you work through the steps of your plan of action, be flexible in your understanding of what your network can offer you or what you can offer them. The best opportunities may come from wholly unexpected places but preparation can make the difference in your success.
9. Be aware
Recognise the difference in what your professional connections choose to express and what they may be experiencing. People often choose to communicate the best of their life experiences or they may communicate their biggest obstacles or struggles only when they have overcome them. Strive to develop a true connection.
10. Be patient
Your network may take time to grow. That doesn't mean you are doing anything wrong, that you don't understand some hidden secret or that there is anything wrong with you. Focus on the connections in your life currently and welcome change when it presents itself. Be flexible with timing and accept changes as they come instead of pressing to create change at inopportune times.
11. Reach out
Connections can come naturally to some and can take more work with others, but those connections can be equally valuable on a personal and professional level. Understand that some people may be less inclined to initiate conversations. It is ok to be the first person to start a conversation, offer an invitation for lunch or ask questions. Someone has to be the first to initiate communication and your willingness to start a conversation may make the difference in the personal or professional lives of your working colleagues, acquaintances and friends.
12. Be thankful
Appreciate the time and attention your connections offer and recognise that these are valuable commodities. Offer your thanks to your connections who congratulate your successes and those connections who give you their time and attention. People like to feel appreciated and you may find that those words of thanks are invaluable to them.
13. Engage in social networking
Utilise the tools at your disposal. Communication occurs in a variety of ways and engaging with networking in the means available to you and your professional connections increases your chance of making new connections or engaging with your current connections. Keep your professional coworkers and colleagues in mind as you scroll through posts and pictures on any social networks you choose to engage in.
14. Offer assistance or guidance
Mentorship can be an invaluable source of insight, inspiration and support at any stage of career development. Remain open to offering that same guidance and mentorship to those who are in need of help or who have questions. Your developed skills, accumulated knowledge and professional experiences may assist someone else in their winding career path in the same ways that helped you along the way.
Where to use these strategies
In your professional life, you may find yourself using networking strategies in places you hadn't considered. For applications, interviews and the hiring process, your network can support you through professional references and introduce you to established members of the company or industry. Your network may also help with any questions you have about a specific company or the best business practices of an industry. Through days, weeks and years of learning a business and growing within it, you may come across new challenges and obstacles that your network has experienced before.
These strategies can help you expand your knowledge and experience within the industry and prepare you to accept new roles. Even as you end one connection by accepting a new position within the same company or a position with a new company, your connections can influence and improve your ability to adapt and thrive in your new environment. Assist your network with their struggles and any obstacles that you overcame throughout your career to best prepare them and to help yourself better understand the struggles your peers encounter.
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