Let’s face it—when we think of networking, we think of creepy, desperate people trying to advance their careers in gross ways. This, however, is not what we should think, as when done properly, networking can be effortless and graceful. If this skill doesn’t come naturally to you, we suggest you read the following ways to properly build and maintain career-oriented relationships that will help you as you navigate the tricky world of business.
Using whatever platform works best for you, keep track of your professional contacts, making sure to update them regularly—some people even send out an annual mass email asking for updated details as an easy way of tracking movement in their contacts' careers. This list will help you organize your professional outreach if and when it's needed.
Nothing feels worse to the person you're connecting with (or more awkward for you) than reaching out randomly with the obvious goal of soliciting career help. To network most effectively, and with the least amount of personal pain, keep up with your connections by paying them regular attention throughout the year. Every four to six months, spend a day reaching out to say hi, check in on families and careers, and just shoot the sh*t. You may need their help down the line, and while it can feel like an obvious move, it's still preferable to the desperate-feeling alternative of, "I lost my job and need a new one, stat. HALP!"
These days, social networks can provide the most valuable outreach opportunities available to you. LinkedIn is an obvious tool, but depending on your career, Instagram may prove even more useful—here is a complete guide to utilizing that platform in this manner. Some dating apps, like Raya, have work-only connection capabilities (meaning, you can use them to troll for business contacts rather than love), and other apps, such as Shapr, are designed solely for this purpose.
When you meet someone at a dinner or an event and exchange contact information, be sure to follow up with them the very next day. Even if all you did was follow each other on Instagram, it can't hurt to DM them a "Nice to meet you" text with your email included. If someone gives you a card, we highly recommend emailing them the following day, if for no other reason than you'll retain each other's contacts long after the card is lost.
We all lead super busy lives—too busy, one might say—which is why it can be difficult to commit to people who ask for favor coffee dates or connections. Once you have some longevity in your career, however, you'll realize how important it is to do for others what you will eventually need for yourself. These niceties eventually come back to you, so take time to help those who reach out to you when possible (including friends, interns, virtual strangers and others).
The other great thing you can do to up your career karma is to connect people who haven't asked for it. If you know your friend is a freelance writer, and you have a friend who's a magazine editor, it's going to be appreciated by both if you intro with a note such as, "Thought you two might be into a coffee, I'll let you take it from here!" Contacts are valuable, and gifting yours to someone else will put them in networking debt to you, which is a great place to be (for you).
As emotional humans instead of robots, it's sometimes difficult to quit jobs in the proper manner. Doing so, however, is important, lest you negate every single positive thing you achieved while working for someone. Here, some advice on leaving a job without burning bridges in order to avoid ruining one of your easiest future networking opportunities.