How to Network Effectively: 10 Tips for Business Networking

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Businesspeople mingle at a networking event.

You might think face-to-face networking is obsolete. After all, who talks when they can text, email, or message? However, in-person conversation is surprisingly important, especially when it comes to getting a job or making business connections.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median duration of unemployment for October 2021 was 12 weeks. With the average American having less than three months covered in their emergency fund, according to a new survey from Bankrate, the pressure to find new employment can be intense. In response, many professionals turn to their business connections to help them find a job.

Learning how to network effectively can be the key to building trusting relationships, reaching the next step in your career, and attaining professional goals. With an advanced degree, such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA), graduates are able to build the communication skills necessary to succeed while expanding their professional network.

Networking in Business

Building a strong professional network can be the difference between getting a job recommendation and being overlooked. With many jobs being filled before reaching a job board, who you know becomes incredibly important and can be the key to reaching personal and professional goals. By learning how to network effectively, professionals can create opportunities for themselves and take some of the guesswork out of job hunting.

Relationships that last are built on mutual trust, respect, and opportunity. In business and personal life, no one likes to be a part of a one-sided relationship, making it essential that both parties are genuine and bring value to the table. Through collaboration, business professionals can make exciting advances, like putting deals in place, starting a new business, or joining a team that aligns with their values, allowing them to find a job that they’re passionate about.

Networking Tips

More than just starting a conversation, learning how to network effectively takes practice and making the right first impression can make all the difference in business. By paying attention to details and knowing how to enter a room with confidence, graduates can build long-lasting and trusting relationships. These tips on how to network effectively can make a positive impact on your career.

1. Stop Saying ‘Sorry’

Picture this: You’re at a party and notice a senior executive in sales at your dream company. In fact, you’ve recently applied for a position in the sales department there. You really want to introduce yourself because this could be the “in” you need. How will you break the ice though? After all, first impressions count. “Excuse me. I’m so sorry to bother you, but I’d like to introduce myself.”

Does this scenario sound familiar? Networking novices often apologize when trying to forge new connections. This can signal insecurity and fear of rejection and doesn’t do much for positive relationship building. Instead, be confident and believe in yourself. Remember that apologizing for introducing yourself doesn’t make a good first impression.

2. Smile

A basic but sometimes overlooked tool for professionals learning how to network effectively is smiling.  Smiling when you introduce yourself goes a long way, and people normally don’t think about doing it when they’re networking. Forgetting to smile could happen for a variety of reasons: nervousness, uncertainty, or lack of confidence. Remember, a smile is an invitation to network. It says, I’m approachable, friendly, and confident. Talk to me!

3. Listen Before Jumping In

Trying to join a conversation in progress can feel like trying to jump onto a moving train. Instead of launching yourself in the middle of the action by blurting out an opinion, listen for a few moments while smiling and nodding to get the gist of the topic. Then ease in when you feel comfortable, but without interrupting a speaker. One good way to start participating is to ask a question of the group rather than making a statement. Leading with a question is a great way to show you’re interested and want to join the discussion.

4. Repeat People’s Names

Getting people’s names and repeating them often is one of the simplest things you can do to network effectively. People like to hear their own name as it tends to make them feel more comfortable and shows that you’re paying attention. It’s also an effective recall strategy: Repeating someone’s name in conversation helps you remember it later.

5. Networking Works Both Ways

When you meet someone at a networking event, it’s important to ask as much as you can about their business and make sure that you’re providing information about yours. Business experts suggest that when learning how to network more effectively, you need to start with the basics: your name, company, affiliation, position, etc. After they offer their information in return, you can ask them questions, such as:

  • What services or products does your company provide its customers?
  • Who are your clients/customers?
  • At your company, who’s the person making the buying decisions?
  • What makes your company different from your competition?

6. Analyze Your Contact List

Periodically evaluate your list of contacts to see who might be able to help take your networking to the next level. Needs and opportunities change over time, and you never know who’ll help you in the future. Sometimes you need to look back to go forward.

7. Bring Business Cards

Always have more than enough business cards handy at a networking event, so people can remember who you are after the event is over. Don’t wait for your new business contacts to ask for one; be proactive and offer it. Let them know you want to hear from them, and ask for their card as well.

8. Be Exactly Who You Are

Many people think they need an outgoing personality to network effectively, but that’s not true.

If you tend to be more reserved, shy, or quirky, then be yourself when networking — not who others think you should be. Being authentic comes across as endearing. It’s worse to try to be someone you’re not.

9. Network Outside Your Industry

The Harvard Business Review cites Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam’s advice to network not only based on commonalities but also on differences. Putnam calls this “bonding” and “bridging.” The latter provides you with diverse perspectives and points of view. It also puts you in a favorable position if you ever decide to change careers. Therefore, connecting with people outside your industry should be an integral part of your networking strategy.

10. Maintain Your New Contacts

When you find someone to add to your professional circle, make sure to get that person’s contact information. If you think your new contact will help you develop your career, suggest a second meeting right away. However, if the person asks you to get in touch at a later time, respect the request. Make it convenient for your new contact by offering to meet at one of your respective offices, remotely over the phone, or even for lunch if your companies are nearby.

Remember that this is a relationship, so give back something of value. For instance, you can send your new contact a relevant article, connect the person with people who can be of help, or send a personalized thank-you message for the person’s time.

Find Professional Success Through Networking

Learning how to network effectively takes time and experience. It’s not going to be something you master overnight. The important part is to keep trying and continue networking as you grow your career, maintaining the relationships you have to help both yourself and your connections find success By pursuing an advanced degree like the online Master of Business Administration from Ohio University, you can meet like-minded individuals while building the professional skills you need to reach your professional goals.

Building a network of your peers can be a great advantage as a graduate. With its focused curriculum, network of alumni, and experienced faculty, Ohio University’s program is designed to provide you with the knowledge and resources to succeed. Discover how an advanced degree can teach you how to network effectively and begin an exciting new career in business.

Recommended Readings

How to Lead Effective Virtual Meetings: Resources for Managers and Business Leaders

Reasons to Get a Master of Business Administration

Social Marketing Ultimate Guide: Tips and Resources for Modern Marketers

Sources:

Bankrate, “Survey: More Than Half of Americans Couldn’t Cover Three Months of Expenses With an Emergency Fund”

Forbes, “Six Top Tips for Networking in the New World of Work”

Harvard Business Review, “How to Network with Powerful People

Indeed, 10 Tips to Help You Network Like a Pro

Oprah Daily, “Simple Ways to Network, Even If You’re Shy”

Scotiabank Women Initiative, How to Network Online Effectively. A Business Owner’s Guide

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table A.12. Unemployed Persons by Duration of Unemployment