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Unlocking the Power of Effective Networking

Networking may feel daunting, but it is crucial for expanding contacts. Try engaging in activities relevant to your industry to effectively grow your network.

NEW YORK – Networking immediately frightens many people, yet it is very important to expand your contact list. Fortunately, networking does not have to be limited to exchanging cards or a short and seemingly pointless conversation. It can also be nice to strike up a conversation with someone in your industry. Here are six ways to more effectively expand your network.

1. Networking goes both ways

The purpose of networking is for you to learn more about another person, and for your conversation partner to learn about you and your company as well. Therefore, it is always best to start the conversation by introducing yourself. Tell your name and the name of your company, your position in the company, etc. After the introduction, you can ask some pointed questions to exchange more information:

  • What products or services does your company offer?
  • Who are your customers?
  • Who is in charge of determining purchases?
  • In what ways do you differentiate yourself from the competition

2. Evaluate your contacts

Even if you are very good at networking, it is impossible to include every person in your field or industry in your network. Therefore, it is important to filter so that you can see who is most worth the effort to build a relationship with. Ask yourself whether or not you can help each other. You really want to be able to contribute something and not just be a name in a person's address book. Conversely, you should evaluate others in the same way.

One trick to making good contacts is to look back at your past. You may have once studied with someone who knows a lot of people today. His or her network may also be of interest to you, so it is worthwhile to contact that person again. You can catch up, and possibly that old acquaintance could be the link to a very useful new contact in your network. On LinkedIn, for example, you often see an old classmate or colleague being the intermediary to a new contact.

3. Mingle with people

Sitting at home is not going to help you make new contacts. Networking also means actively participating in activities. Do something that you yourself are fascinated by, such as golf or cooking classes, and you will definitely meet people with the same interests.

Even in the business world, people from certain sectors often meet in the same cafes and restaurants. Try to find out where people from your sector have lunch or go for drinks at the end of the work week. Especially in relaxed situations, people are more social and it is easier to strike up a conversation.

If there is a charity fundraiser somewhere, be sure to attend. That's the ideal place to meet people and you immediately make a good impression because you are behind a good cause.

4. Always go for a second date

Unless the first meeting was seriously disappointing, there will always be a second date. Even professionally, it's good to see someone a second time. After all, it is difficult during an introduction to determine whether a contact is worthy of a place in your network. Typically, you don't have much time to get to know someone better.

Of course, you don't have to meet with everyone in the room for lunch or a cup of coffee. Therefore, a conversation is very important. Based on that, you should try to find out if there is potential in a relationship. If there isn't, it's better to keep starting conversations until you meet someone who does interest you. Then be sure to exchange contact information so that you can arrange a second date in the future.

5. Take advantage of social media

You certainly don't have to be active on social media all day to look for contacts, but it is worthwhile, for example, in the run-up to a conference to see if anyone is coming who might be of interest to your network. Some social media also lends itself better to professional contacts, so be sure to check out LinkedIn. Or a look at a company's website can also reveal a lot. Afterwards, you can follow certain people on Twitter, for example.

Social media is also the ideal place to share relevant articles. Be sure to get involved in discussions and answer or ask questions. That way you become an active member of a community and show yourself as someone with expertise in your field.

6. Maintain good relationships

If you have a good network, then it is important to maintain your relationship with your best contacts. That also means you're going to have to pick and choose, because the larger your network, the harder it is to build really meaningful relationships. Limit yourself to five to 10 people in your network that you really put energy into. So keep in regular contact and make sure it's interesting to them as well. Sharing a useful article or giving an update on your career can lead to valuable interactions.

There will also always be new contacts added to your network, which is why you should re-evaluate regularly. Perhaps someone was very useful last year, but that person is now much less interesting than someone you just met. That doesn't mean you should blow bridges right away. You can reconnect from time to time, because you never know if that person will ever become an important part of your network again.

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