Whether you work in a boardroom or your own living room, it's hard to move your career forward without networking in your industry.
But the wrong sort of networking will hurt you more than no networking at all. There are dozens of networking mistakes you can make, both on and offline. Anything from talking too much about yourself to forgetting to follow up in a timely manner will sink your networking prospects faster than you can say "unemployed."
So how do you know the right way to network?
If you're worried that your networking skills are shaky, you don't need to memorize a list of dos and don'ts. You just need to keep three letters in mind: CPR, or, Cultivate Personal Relationships.
What do you think of when you hear the word relationship?
Something long-term, probably, involving two people who understand and support each other. That's the ideal result of CPR, too.
Rather than approaching each networking opportunity as a one-time interaction, think of how to create a connection that will truly last. Your focus should be on building relationships with others in your industry that will last the length of your career.
Don't Make It All About You
You don't go into a personal relationship talking all about yourself -- if you did, you'd never get a second date! In the same way, CPR should be as much about the other person as it is about you.
Know about an industry event happening? Send an email to your contacts to let them know. Saw a great post on a colleague's blog? Retweet it with commentary.
Make a point of supporting others in their careers, rather than just expecting them to help you. They're more likely to return the favor, and that way everyone benefits.
Put Yourself Out There
You can't get a date sitting on a couch. And you can't grow a business or advance your career if you spend your whole day sitting behind a desk ignoring everyone else. CPR doesn't work unless you put in the effort.
Attend industry events and introduce yourself to people there. Ask about their work and show genuine interest in what they tell you. Reach out to colleagues on social media to ask for their advice or share your personal experience.
We remember the people who have made an effort to get to know us and who show interest in what we have to say. So don't be afraid to put yourself out there when you network. It's the best way to make a positive impression.
Imagine asking a spouse to take out the trash... and they don't do it for three months, then come to you expecting praise. Not going to happen, right?
CPR is all about follow-through: if you say you'll do something, do it.
Whether that's sending an email when you said you would, connecting on LinkedIn, or promptly arranging a time to meet for coffee, the best way to create a solid relationship is by being reliable. That way, when the next big opportunity comes along to apply for a job or meet the CEO, your contacts will not only remember you, they'll know they can count on you not to make them look bad.
No matter what industry you work in, networking can leave you feeling paralyzed and confused. But when you think concentrating on cultivating personal relationships, rather than simply making a contact, that can fundamentally change how you approach others... and how they remember and value you.
What tips do you have to make networking more successful?
Share them in the comments!
Image courtesy of Dell Flickr / IMCreator.com