Networking is a critical skill for any small business owner or employee looking to advance in a career. However, this term can apply to several types of activities. When people focus on developing a network of contacts, it is easy to overlook the ones that already exist. Instead of rushing out to make new contacts through mentor programs or other venues, consider the benefits of converting your existing contacts into leads.
Keeping All Options Open
There is no reason why you shouldn’t pursue both existing contacts and new ones, but time constraints often impose limitations on how much time you have to network. In cases where you are facing this type of limitation, networking within your existing contact list makes perfect sense.
Here are some ideas to help you look at your existing list of contacts in a way that will help you the value of the people you already know:
1. Approach people you already know about a new topic.
The people we are most familiar with possess many hidden skills, abilities and social resources. New topics can reveal these hidden networking opportunities. For example, a co-worker might be attending an educational course on a subject of mutual interest. You could find out about it during a conversation about wanting to improve your own skills. This can open doors to a networking opportunity that was previously hidden. Other topics might include hobbies, common interests, referrals, family members and unfulfilled dreams. These subjects can help people to open up and feel comfortable sharing their ideas with you. Remember that everyone you know might know someone else who might be able to help you advance in your career.
2. Develop your passion about what you are already doing.
Share your enthusiasm with people in your existing network. If you are generating positive energy around your work, this can encourage others to share their own stories of growth and achievement. This is the kind of conversation that opens doors to opportunities. The networking process is often social, so you must lead by example and exude positivity, so that people in your network become interested in what you are doing. People tend to admire those who can generate a feeling of passion about their work. This attitude is more likely to lead to additional networking opportunities. TAFE courses allow you to cultivate passion about specific career topics. They can also provide insights into relevant subjects when engaging your existing network, for example.
3. Practice trusting your own intuition.
This can be the hardest advice to take when you are cultivating your existing network. Breaking any bad habit is difficult, but it is worth the effort. When you listen to your intuition, you will find yourself asking a colleague a question that you might not normally verbalise, and this can feel like taking a risk. The only way to learn about this singular skill is to practice it frequently. After all, if you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?
4. Change your mindset around career setbacks.
When things appear to be going wrong, you could gain a lot by remaining neutral. This technique will prevent you from imposing your insecurities or doubts on the situation. Let things unfold without interfering or trying to make them into something you want. Become an astute observer of your existing situation. This will allow networking conversations and events to unfold in a natural manner. Always strive to create an atmosphere that opens doors and encourages others to develop their own relationship skills.
5. Pursue personal interests and access your existing network in a more meaningful way.
Use the information you are learning in daily life. Interact with the same people in a different way, and keep them guessing what you will come up with next. This is a skill that takes time to develop, but you can get the most out of your existing relationships when you are constantly bringing new energy and information into these encounters. Relationships are built over time. When people you know witness you constantly growing and striving to get the most out of every experience you encounter, you will inspire others to do the same.
Further education and your existing network
Relationships require attention and time to bear fruit. This is especially true when networking within your existing circle of contacts. It is helpful to have a specific outlet for developing these networking skills. For example, you can quickly get the most out of your existing network by enrolling in TAFE courses. This provides you with many opportunities to develop areas of interest that are relevant to your career ambitions.
Improve the quality of your interactions with people you already know by adding a course that is relevant to your contacts. The more value you can bring to your existing relationships, the more people will seek you out when an opportunity arises. Remember that networking within your existing contacts requires you to invest time and energy. In other words, relationships always take work. Enroll in a TAFE course today to get started refining your career development and networking skills.
“The opinions expressed by BizWitty Contributors are their own, not those of BizCover and should not be relied upon in place of appropriate professional advice. Please read our full disclaimer."