You probably already know that networking is one of the most effective ways to build your technology career. Not only does getting to know people in your industry help you learn about, and potentially gain, more opportunities, you are also able to stay up to date on the latest industry news, trends, and information. It’s really a tremendous opportunity. And let’s not forget that the people you meet in your networking group will become lifelong friends.
That being said, if you simply attend networking groups to gain benefits, you’re missing out on the point and the true value of networking. You see, you gain more from networking when you give. Giving can happen in many different ways and we’ll take a look at some of them. The point to keep in mind as you network and the question to ask yourself is “how can I offer value?”
- Introduce People – As you network you’ll meet people and learn about them, or at least you should be doing this. Quite often you’ll have an opportunity to introduce people to one another. Learn how to do this well. It’s not enough just to say, “This is Sue.” Tell a little bit about the person and make them feel good. “This is Sue; she’s got this amazing project she’s working on. I think you’d be interested.”
- Connect People – Connecting is a step beyond introductions. It’s about putting people together who can help each other out. If Julie has an opening at her company and you meet Bob and he seems like a good fit, then connect them. Everyone loves a connector, and it makes you feel great to be able to help people out.
- Share Your Knowledge – Regardless of where you are in your career, you have thoughts, opinions, knowledge, and experience. Share it with others, and share it in a way that is meaningful to you and your recipient. For example, if you enjoy writing then share your knowledge in blog, article, and social media format. If you enjoy talking and presenting, then present to your group.
- Organize and Volunteer – One of the wonderful things about networking groups is that there are many ways to get involved and provide value. You may be someone who enjoys pulling together events or contributing. Start coming up with ideas for your group. You might organize an event or volunteer at one.
Finally, it makes good sense to practice your listening skills. Learn to ask questions and to be present when people are talking. This gives you the best opportunity to get to know them. It also gives you the best opportunity to learn how you might provide value.