Networking is a delicate balance and powerful. It’s something we do everyday in our lives whether we realize it or not. One of the primary goals in networking is to continue to grow your professional and personal network.
I’ve been blessed with numerous networking opportunities during my career and it took me a long time to find a formula that has worked for me. Everybody has a different way of networking.
While there’s no right or wrong way of networking, there are certain principles that are crucial to ensuring your experience benefits you in the future. Remember networking is not about getting a job; it’s about building meaningful and authentic relationships with others.
I had networking all wrong until I attended the NCAA Leadership Institute in 2015. It was a life-changing experience and program for me. Before I attended the Leadership Institute, I figured, if I met you somewhere and we chatted for about 15 minutes or so, I made a lifelong connection. Nope. All I did was make an acquaintance because I never followed up or reached out to that person following our meeting.
I would feel bad because I would see those same people a year later and realized I had nothing meaningful to say to them outside of hello and how was your year.
Now everybody I meet at conventions, games, events, speaking engagements and in my athletics communications profession, I make it a point to follow up with an email within 48 hours. I don’t care how busy I am. I always carve out time to reach out to people because I believe it’s important.
The key is being committed, staying connected and checking in. Just want to share three quick and important networking tips that have helped me recently. These three tips have been so impactful during my career.
1. Be Committed
Put the work in to establish meaningful connections with people in your circle. This is going to take some time. Build those relationships by checking in, following through and providing support whenever appropriate. The best thing you can do to help build your relationship is by offering something of value to your connection. Helping other people will often come back to you tenfold. Most people have all kinds of people vying for their attention (for jobs, for collaboration, etc.) So how do you stand out from the bunch? Personal relationships are key. That’s how you stand out.
2. Stay Connected
A lot of this falls on the responsibility of the person looking to advance and increase their contacts. They have to find a way to remain connected. However, if you, as a mentor, find somebody that’s passionate about getting into your profession, it’s not a bad idea to maintain a connection with them even if that person becomes distant. Take time to learn about your connection and why you are drawn to them in the first place. Don’t network because you think it’ll help you achieve a better position or a new job. Networking isn’t about somebody hooking you up with a job. I have been more inclined to recommend people for positions that have stayed in touch with me. It’s important to follow-up and follow through. Keep in touch with your professional contacts via email, social media and face-to-face meetings. When you maintain contact you remain on their radar, which can result in them name-dropping you to their contacts.
3. Check In
Check in with your contacts on a regular basis. The people I have built relationships with from them reaching out are the ones that have stayed connected with me by sharing updates. They keep me informed with new jobs, their work, ideas, etc. (these aren’t day-to-day updates, but big updates/interesting projects). If someone is willing to help you along the way, then give updates on your work. Show how they’ve helped you. Build the type of relationships where you both can bounce ideas off of one another. Following up is a powerful thing. It takes an intentional effort of staying in touch and following their careers whether it’s on social media or in the news. Then let them know about it. Little things like that mean a lot and it’s much appreciated.
If you want to intentionally build a relationship with somebody you haven’t had the opportunity to meet yet, the same principles apply. You would have start contact with the person you want to begin connecting with, offer something of value, study their career and make your purpose clear for wanting to reach out.
In addition, you’ll also understand and appreciate how much value you add to each of your new connections. Lastly, whether you realize it or not, by beginning to implement these networking tips, you are developing your personal board of directors. These are people who will challenge, inspire, motivate you to step out of your comfort zone, and empower you to find your purpose. A strong network can also potentially open doors to pathways of opportunities and success for you.
The easy part of networking is meeting others. Networking takes plenty of work and it’s more than just exchanging business cards at conventions, games and events. How you follow-up and interact with your connection after the initial meeting goes a long way in determining how impactful and beneficial your new contact will be.
Keep these three tips in mind, and you’ll be amazed at how fast your network grows.
Rob Knox is currently the Associate Director of Media Relations at Towson University and the CoSIDA second vice president. An award-winning communications professional, Knox has over 15 years of experience in several sectors of the media including sports information, newspapers and television. A member of The Lincoln University of Pennsylvania Athletics Hall of Fame, graduate of the NCAA Leadership Institute and 2011 CoSIDA Rising Star Award winner, Knox is one of the most influential, passionate and accomplished athletic communications professionals in the country.