By Advait Rajmane, Illinois FBLA State Reporter
Networking is a crucial skill in today's business world. By definition, it involves building relationships with people who can help you achieve your professional goals. Whether those be to find new job opportunities, learn about industry trends, or to simply establish valuable connections. However, networking is not solely about collecting business cards or growing your LinkedIn connections, it should be approached strategically and with genuine interest in building relationships. Below are a few simple steps so that you can begin your networking journey!
1. Know Your Goals
Before you start networking, it's important to know what you want to achieve. Do you want to expand your professional circle? Find a mentor? Land a new job? Once you have identified your goals, you can focus your networking efforts on meeting the right people and building relationships that will help you achieve those goals.
2. Attend Networking Events
Networking events are a great way to meet new people in your industry. For example, there are many FBLA conferences throughout the year (SLW, NFLC, Area, SLC, NLC). Utilize these opportunities to garner new interests while exploring current ones. It is also a good idea to research the speakers, attendees, and/or sponsors to identify potential contacts beforehand.
3. Connect on Social Media
Social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram can help you connect with professionals in your field from anywhere. Join industry groups, follow leaders, and engage with their posts. It is important that you demonstrate interest by sharing your own insights and content to showcase your knowledge and expertise. Do make sure to be mindful of your online presence and ensure that your profile and posts align with your professional goals.
4. Focus on Building Relationships
Be in the mindset of forming relationships with people. What is vital is that you are in a position to reach out to these people in the future in order to achieve your goals. Also take an interest in the other person's professional goals and seek ways to help them succeed. Focus on developing meaningful connections by being genuine, respectful, and supportive. When you approach networking with a mindset of building relationships, you will find it easier to establish connections that are valuable and long-lasting.
5. Follow Up
After meeting someone, follow up to thank them for their time and express your interest in staying in touch. There is no benefit if you do not connect with them later. Send a personalized message or email to remind them of your conversation and offer to connect on LinkedIn. Remember to keep the conversation going and find ways to add value to the relationship.
I hope these steps helped you outline your networking approach. Although these steps are more generic, FBLA has all of these resources already in place! I am confident that you are now able to employ these tools to their fullest. :)