Navigating the tech community is hard. For professionals just starting out or for professionals that have been at it for a while – there is always a new event to check out, a new company to watch, and other professionals in your community that you should know. It’s difficult to keep up. While it helps to always be seen around town to stay top of mind with professionals in your field, it’s also a fine balance – you want to effectively network without appearing to be lurking, salesy or desperate. Very often the quality of your networking efforts is more important than the quantity.
In this new connected economy, what are the networking tactics you should employ that will move the needle to build your personal brand, drive awareness of your business, and effectively learn from your peers or mentors? Here are a few recommendations.
Choose your forums carefully.
It’s easy to be part of multiple groups in order to increase your odds of networking success – join your alumni network, attend a weekly meet-up, post to online groups five times a week, etc. But at some point, the quality of your contributions begins to decrease. You have a job, you might have a family, or another extracurricular hobby – point being, you’re spread thin and it becomes impossible to give 100%. Most likely, your extended network is the first to neglect.
Create a list of goals and then choose the groups and networks that will provide you the most value. For instance, if your goal is to purely learn new strategies or tactics for your role, attend a panel or professional course. If you want to meet new people, attend meetups or join an online network with people you know that can help introduce you to others. But don’t forget that you need to also be in a position to provide value if you want it to be a successful relationship. Unless it’s a true mentor scenario, your best professional relationships will be mutual – a give and take of advice, introductions/connections, and support. Which brings me to my next point…
Deliver value for longterm success.
Have you ever been asked to get coffee by a peer in your industry, only to discover that they just need a favor? If you never get coffee and exchange favors with this person, it feels like you’re being used – like they only need you for the favor vs. truly wanting to build and maintain a relationship.
There are a few ways to deliver value in a networking capacity. Value could be mentorship, introductions to potential mentors, helping each other fill job openings, looking for potential career opportunities, referrals in business, or simply sharing industry news and trends with one another. It really depends on the other person and your mutual understanding of the relationship.
Be useful and contextual.
Make sure your “value” is perceived and desired. Meaning, don’t just share advice or connections for the sake of sharing them. Get to know the person so that you truly understand their professional challenges and opportunities. That way, your efforts are appreciated, and you’ll receive equally valuable returns.
Be consistent vs. frequent.
There are some people in your extended network that you correspond with daily, some that you grab coffee with every week, and some that you talk to once a month or quarter. By understanding your value to one another, you can set a consistent cadence for interaction that is most beneficial and fits within your professional schedules. Set reminders to check in or set standing meetings with the person so you can keep each other updated & top of mind. If you are valuable to one another, you will both look for more frequent and streamlined methods to keep in touch, such as quick phone calls or mobile chat.
Be relevant and effective.
It’s 2017. People run from meeting to meeting, use their phone throughout the day more than their laptop, and are constantly available due to our always-on professional environment. Love it or hate it, there are many virtual ways to network and stay in touch, and folks may appreciate digital touch points that don’t flood their email inbox. There’s a reason why Slack is so successful with internal teams…
Find a format that works for your networks that can be incorporated into daily digital activities. Online networks, group chats, etc. – all ways that your contacts get in touch with you easily, on the go.
Bottom line: the value you provide outweighs the method in which you deliver it. While still valuable in many contexts, you don’t necessarily need to be out every night at different events to connect with the right people. Take advantage of new technologies that let you connect, deliver value, build trust, and strengthen your communities.