Making quality connections will benefit you in all stages of life, mostly when you are in need. No age is too early to start networking. However, if you hadn't started in your late teens, it is okay. Your 20's are the most crucial time for networking with people.
Before we start, what does it mean to the network? It means establishing and maintaining relationships with people in diverse fields, and positions. Effective networking ensures that people know you beyond your face and name. The key to building a good network is developing relationships via a friendly approach and keeping in touch with people.
Building a strong professional network:
1. Recognize your valued associations:
Look around. Start developing relationships right from where you are. Drop a text to earlier mentors, potential peers, and connections. Enquire on their health and well being. Tell them what you are up to in life. Ask them what's "most happening" in their life. Maintaining good relations with them is a chance to benefit from their experience, reputation, and contacts in the industry, which would otherwise take you years to build for yourself. Also, within a few years, many of your peers will be working in different companies and different fields. You might need them someday.
2. Smart conversation starter
There's a never-ending list of professional conversation starters, ranging from the simplest as introducing yourself or starting with a compliment to delving into personal exploration by asking the interests or hobbies of the other person. (Check out for smart conversation-starting examples)
3. Be social
Don't miss out ever the first few parties or social gatherings of any new place you join. The best two advantages are: you get to connect with many people in one go, and the setting is informal which helps a more personal approach to networking, the best kind of course.
4. Participate in events and communities
Socializing in physical events is a bundle of opportunities waiting to be explored. Approach the eminent people with a personal message, follow with an open-end question, provide your personal perspective to the matter at hand, and there you have a conversation going. The person has recognized you and will remember you for a couple of days but a couple of days is not the aim. So, go ahead and ask for a card (if s/he hasn't already offered you one). Drop an email next morning stating where and how you met him/her, and that you'd like to stay in touch.
Approach the fellow attendees/participants you find interesting and repeat the process.
5. Address people with their name
Addressing with one's name gives a sense of acknowledgment to the addressed, and helps you remember names. This is one of the most subtle hacks to tap emotion connect while being professional.
6. Link on LinkedIn
It's all about interaction and expanding your network. LinkedIn is being used to find investors, for hiring, for landing jobs, clients, generating leads, and more. You should actively build more connections and interact with your target people by adding valuable comments on their posts. They notice. Do it consistently and there is a relationship built.
If you are on a base level and want to approach an HR of a reputed company, interact with them on their posts and build a relationship before you send a connect request. When they receive your connect request you'll not be an unknown identity to them.
7. Background research helps incredibly
Thanks to the internet and LinkedIn that you can find almost anyone online and do a quick background check before approaching them. Know their interest, work field, go through their posts and you'll know a lot about the person. It is always advisable to research on the department heads, HR, and people you're likely to work with if you join a company before you sit for the interview. If you can figure out the HR and go through his/her profile before an interview it is much easier to transform an interview into a conversation. The best-desired scenario.
8. Build Touchpoints
Always try to find out shared interests with your connections. These work as your touchpoints with your network. Both you and your boss like soccer? Or your department head shares your binge-watching interests? There you got an opportunity!
9. Share opportunities and resources with apt people
Building strong connections with people only happens when you add value to their life. Let's say you have an opportunity or an idea that doesn't help you, but if it can help any of your connections you pass it on to them. Nothing matches an opportunity for business and growth in networking. What if you don't yet have business opportunities to share? Then share with them articles or pieces of knowledge that they'd like to receive.
10. Team spirit
Be supportive and educating. Taking on responsibility is not always the best option. Share responsibilities, let your colleagues expand their limit and when needed, help them perform their best. This is also a tip for good leadership, need I state its importance in building symbiotic relationships.
11. Try not to return with a no
The strength of your bond will be tested in times of need. When your connection needs something from you try not to return with "no". Of course, you can't be available always for others but you can tiny bits like sharing contact of a person who might be of help, or sharing information to guide them in their task, etc. Even more important is to follow up and ask if they found their solution.
12. Be You
Don't be mechanical with learned lines and rehearsed speeches, be you. Intelligent people are simply intelligent to detect if you're breaking sweat impressing them. The key is to stay real and confident. (People don't have to agree with you to like you).
13. Lastly but most importantly
Keep in touch. Keep in touch. Keep in touch. All you need to do is drop a text, a message of appreciation towards their work, or a phone call. A person you know from 15 years back but you have not been in touch is not a part of your network anymore, hence s/he will not invest in your plans. While somebody you met 3 months back, and have contacted twice will readily hear your plans.
Share this learning opportunity with your peers. :)