Fortunately, professional networking doesn’t need to be time-consuming to be effective. In fact, you can build connections and develop your professional reputation in just a few minutes a day. Here’s how:
Do small favors.
A quick way to touch base with members of your network is to distribute an interesting article about careers, the workplace, or your professional field. Even better, send just a single person an article that speaks to his or her interests. Little actions like these can help you keep your relationships strong.
Seek others’ expertise.
Don’t be shy about reaching out to your network when you need advice or face a challenge at work. You certainly don’t want to make yourself a pest or continually hound the same few individuals, but people usually enjoy giving their opinions and answering questions that relate to their expertise. It’s a good way to keep a connection fresh and show your respect for someone.
Just remember to return the favor when others contact you, by responding promptly to their requests.
(If you’re shy about networking, check out some tips for overcoming shyness.)
Offer quick introductions.
LinkedIn and other networking websites make it easy to connect with people–and help others connect, too. If you think two members of your network would benefit from knowing each other, take a minute to introduce them. They’ll remember your efforts down the line.
A fast way to connect with others in your field is to join an online forum or group, such as those found on LinkedIn. For example, Accountemps hosts a LinkedIn group where accounting and finance professionals can share career advice, learn about emerging industry trends, and network with one another
At the same time, don’t forget about in-person groups. Many meet once a month for short lunch or after-work events. Just be sure that you are an active participant in any group you join.
Piggyback on existing plans.
If you will be attending a conference, a seminar, or an industry event, poll your network to see who among the group also will be participating. Make it a point to meet up with them. Take the opportunity to introduce your contacts to one another and meet the people they know.
In a similar vein, reach out to your network when you’re traveling–whether to a different state or simply to the other side of the city. Who’s available to grab a quick cup of coffee with you?
Engaging in conversations with people everywhere–whether it’s at your local coffee shop or on a cross-country plane flight–is an easy way to make new connections. You never know–someone you meet could become a valuable contact.
Show a genuine interest.
Get to know your contacts on a personal level. What are their favorite hobbies? How many children do they? Where did they go to school? This will help you share relevant information and have more-enjoyable conversations.
Also use personal events–birthdays or vacation plans, for instance–as an excuse to touch base with people in your network. You’ll find that contacts respond best when you show interest in them as people, not just as professional connections.
Above all, try to engage in at least one networking-related activity a day. It could be as simple as emailing your congratulations to a contact who received a promotion. By making networking a habit and a constant presence in your life, you’ll find it easier to build new connections and keep existing ones strong.