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Different Ways to Network – Networking Skills

1.    Events

Events are a vital part of networking and building networking skills. Be selective in the networking events you attend, especially if you have a tight schedule. Find events relevant to your interests or professions. You can find out about networking events by subscribing to a relevant, professional newsletter, joining a professional organization, or through online searches. Most of the time you will learn about professional organizations through your existing network.
At every event, make sure you have business cards and are well dressed. Depending on the event, you should dress in business professional or business casual attire. Be sure to practice a 30 second speech introducing yourself before the event.
As mentioned before, quality is much more important than the quantity of your contacts. If possible, try to research network attendees and speakers beforehand so that you know whom to contact.
Introduce yourself to your contact and compliment them. Try to find common ground during your conversation. You need to spend at least 15 to 20 minutes with your contact in order to establish a strong connection by finding a strong common ground and exploring several topics of discussion. If there’s a problem in his or her job or organization that you can help with, offer your services to help find a solution. At the end of your discussion, exchange business cards or phone numbers.
Follow up with your network contacts within 72 hours using the sample letters below. If anything interested happened in your industry, follow up with your contact regarding this event via LinkedIn or text message. Discussing these interesting events is a good way to keep in touch.

2.    Informational interviews

Informational interviews are meetings with a person in your field of interest or career with the objective of obtaining more information. It is a great way to connect with and learn from people with decades of experience in your field.
It’s also a good way to get your foot in the door at a company or for a particular position. For regular interviews, you’re competing against a number of qualified candidates; but for informational interviews, there is generally no interview at all. Instead, you gain knowledge about the company, industry, jobs available and company culture. You also have the opportunity to make a positive impression and discuss your qualifications. This way you’re in a better position that those who just applied online for a regular interview. Informational interviews can also help you find a mentor for your career, in addition to building your networking skills.

3.    Online networking

There are several resources available for online networking. This is a vital networking skill. The resource most commonly used for business networking is LinkedIn. Instead of spreading your time across several social networks, I recommend you focus on LinkedIn as a complement to your offline networking resources.
You can use online networking to set up informational interviews, contact headhunters and managers, or look up networking events and professional associations information.
There are several ways you can use LinkedIn for online networking:
•    If you are looking for a job or just looking to learn more about a particular topic, join a LinkedIn group in your field. Use the LinkedIn search bar at the top of the page to search for groups in your field of interest and request to join the group. Once you’re in the group, you have access to industry experts in your field. You can ask them direct questions and add them as contacts. You can also start a group discussion on any relevant topic. If you can do this often, you will become a well-known member of the group and potentially a well-known individual in the field.
•    You can use the LinkedIn search bar for jobs in your field. You can also review the jobs or recruiters for job. LinkedIn also lets you know if anyone in your network works at the company you’re interested in working for. You can then contact that person and ask them to recommend you for the job.
•    You can connect with a company you are strongly interested in working for by searching for people within the company. Search results will show people in your network who can help you connect with recruiters and managers. You can also search directly for managers and senior managers and request an interview or informational interview with them.

4.    Professional association

Professional associations are a great way to network with people in the same field of interest as you. There are professional associations for every field and most professional associations are international. They are a great resource for inside information, overall industry trends and new developments in the field.
Associations Unlimited is a great tool for those looking for new associations in their field. It has a database of over 460,000 national and international associations. It is only available by subscription, so there’s no point in googling it; but it can be accessed at your local library.
Most professional organizations offer reduced fees for students, so it’s a great way for new career entrants to network with veterans in the field.
The biggest benefit of professional associations is the condensing of information in a world that is overloaded with information. If you are looking to learn more about your field, you can access millions of news articles, journals and books. Most professional organizations have weekly newsletters or magazines that condense the latest information in the field.
-Abhishek Kumar

Author, Career 3.0

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