Given that it is done by human beings in a social setting, all networking involves a range of psychological aspects that are related to a person’s mood, attitudes and principles. These have a direct impact on the development of social skills. Therefore it is as important to review them as it is to find the right moment to establish and maintain contacts. Competencies related to emotional intelligence also deserve special attention. These are decisive in how we relate to other people.
Four stages can be defined in the process of developing a network of contacts: classifying contacts; meeting people; contacting professionals within the sector that you are interested in strategically; and maintaining and exploiting contacts.
For each of these, there is a series of basic tips to get the most out of your network of contacts, and also expand it.
- 1st stage: Classify contacts.
- Find the right format to collect the more important details about your contacts. On this, new technologies enable you to store this information on PCs and electronic mobile devices (mobile telephones, PDAs etc) With regard to software, there are online utilities that make it easier to compile and expand the details relating to your contacts – such as social networks and similar applications.
- Classify the contacts according to the most useful variable for you: type of contact (personal or professional), economic sector, field of contact (gym, university, work) etc. To recover former contacts and create new ones, you can find points of interaction between people that cross over more than one of these areas.
- Improve the descriptions for your contacts with keywords and meta tags) so that it is easier to find them and recall them when you need to.
- Have a clear contacts map based on relationship levels.
- 2nd stage: Make new contacts.
- Be open, accessible and confident in yourself. If you are not feeling like that, it’s better to leave it for another day. It is better to cancel an interview (with a company or contact) than go without being in the best frame of mind.
- Prepare a quick presentation of who you are and what you want to do – that is, a good elevator pitch.
- Seek out contacts that are very active in terms of networking; normally, they are people who connect naturally.
- Compile as much information as possible about your contacts: name and surname, contact details, place of work, company, role and responsibilities, training and experience, projects that they work on, etc.
- Make sure that you know your contacts well: make time to talk to them and shown interest in them – both through formal questions, for example what they do, where they work etc) and informal questions, for example about their family, holidays and so on).
- Remember specific details about your contacts: professional (customers, projects that they are working on etc) and personal (birthday, where they live, etc). Any information that helps you establishing a conversation related to their interests.
- 3rd stage: Contact professionals from your industry or field, in a strategic way.
- Ask people that you know about other people they know who work in the industry or professional field that you are interested in.
- Attend events held within your industry or professional area: trade fairs, round tables, conferences etc.
- Become a member of professional associations and colleges, unions and working groups.
- Participate in groups or forums within the social networks and virtual communities.
- Watch out for changes taking place around you as well as new trends in your industry.
- Create a list of target companies where you would like to work.
- Find people who work or have experience in your industry, follow what they do, contact them and let them know who you are and what you are interested in.
- Build relationships with professionals who do your job in other companies.
- 4th stage: Maintain and exploit your contacts
- Update your contacts continually.
- Share your knowledge and make the most of other people. Think about the interests of the other party in this win-win relationship.
- Use social network and Web 2.0 applications mainly at the start and end of the day, which is when most people connect.
- When choosing your networking tools, think about how you will combine different platforms to find and maintain the contacts that match your objective.
- Take advantage of any opportunity to do something nice for your contacts and build your appeal among them.
- Involve others in conversations and social situations.
- Actively participate in social events.
- Connect people from different environments that you think could get on with each other.
- Request contributions, help and suggestions from other people and offer yours.
- Networking has no limits in terms of space or time. Our network of contacts can range from our more immediate environment (family, neighbours, colleagues and former work and study colleagues, friends and acquaintances) to people that have no direct connection with us.
- However, it requires a continual investment in time and effort. Just as human capital steadily develops through a person’s training and experience, social capital can also grow on a daily basis if you constantly feed it.
- Actively participating in social networks and the internet enables you to demonstrate your knowledge and contribute to strengthening your digital identity. It is not essential to find work but it helps to make you more visible and position you in the job market. In short, it can set your candidacy apart from other people with similar profiles.
- Networking however is not just an important tool for finding work; it has become a key aspect in career development. It helps you to promote your personal brand and knowledge of the context that you are working in and enables you to keep up-to-date and learn through other people. Networking activities help you get the most out of your human capital and maximise the opportunities for professional success.