Networking is a key to career success, but as the world becomes even more digital, how we make connections has shifted. With this in mind, we asked our member community for their tips and advice—from virtual connections to overcoming hesitations about networking. Here’s what they had to say.
Take every opportunity to network. Never underestimate whom you may come in contact with and how your paths may (eventually) intersect again that could be mutually beneficial at a later time! Also, networking takes time and is the first step in the all-important relationship management process. Once you make a connection and enlarge your network, it’s important to nurture those relationships over time. Stay connected. Find opportunities to interact—whether on a small, electronic scale to when our opportunities to socialize at national conventions resume. Relationships take time but nurturing these will be beneficial to your network’s viability in the future.
Smile, be genuine about yourself and share credible, trustworthy information, contacts and areas of interest. Acquire skills about genuine communication and body language. Do not fake or over sell information which might lead to loss of interest. Share or evolve one common interest to carry the connection forward. Follow up in an honest, transparent and non-intrusive manner.
Be curious and interested in the other person. As an introvert, I found networking very challenging until I realized that my strength is to listen and connect with individuals, one-on-one, and that networking does not require anyone to work an entire room. When you focus on the other person, really listen to what they have to say, they appreciate it and want to learn about you. I have found that this often leads to a follow-up conversation and an opportunity for you to ask them to introduce you to others, or help you in some other way.
You must understand what you want to gain from the experience. No matter what your reason is, make sure you know why you are attending the event so you can make the most of your investment (time and money).
Set a goal for the event and mentally walk your way through how you would accomplish the goal. Make smart choices about what you plan on wearing and wear something little that is memorable; a broach, neat colored socks, a cool pocket square. It can be a good conversation starter or icebreaker.
Research the people who will be present along with reading up on current events both in your respective field and the overall market landscape. From there, just be comfortable in who you are and why you are networking in the first place. You should be intentional of the time you invest in networking without coming off transactional. People want to help, learn their story, tell them yours, and find commonality to create a connection.
Cannon: What’s the “norm” for the call/meeting—understand and follow this. For example, if calls are relatively casual, dress as such. Take note of who is on the call/in the meeting and then reach out to them via professional social media platforms to follow. Reference the meeting to establish a formal connection (e.g., John, it was great meeting you on the planning call for x, y, z organization. I’d like to establish a connection.)
Iocona: Many virtual connections these days begin with social media. What works well is to be active on social media, commenting on posts, and posting your own thoughts and ideas that will engage others to respond. Virtual meetings on various platforms are common these days, and it’s important to approach these meetings as you would an in-person meeting. Of course, the basics apply: be on time, look professional, listen attentively and offer your own ideas. And, don’t forget to follow up with a thank you.
Terrazas Escamilla: Video call fatigue is real and today people are spending more time on devices than ever. When connecting virtually, offer the opportunity to do a phone call, and if they agree to a video call be considerate of their time and attention. Keep the engagement short but impactful. Thank them and follow up. Chances are if you left the right impression they will want to engage with you in person when the opportunity presents itself.
Iocona: It’s not only important, it’s essential for one’s growth and development in his/her career. When you are looking to change careers, move into a larger role or just do the best you can in your current role, you need relationships with other professionals in order to learn and grow. Sometimes the best way to differentiate yourself from others in your field is to have a network of people who know you, can advise and mentor you, and may even recommend you to others in their network. If you’re looking for a job, it is a great way to get beyond the automatic screening of applicants and to be seen as an individual who values relationships with other professionals.
Limp: We didn’t get to where we are on our own. I know I didn’t. Remember, networking goes both ways. We have to allow ourselves to be available when others reach out to us if we expect others to be available when we reach out to them. Networking is important at all stages of our career: finding opportunities, finding better opportunities, education/learning, and helping to ensure that we pass along our own knowledge and experience.
Montgomery: Networking gives you the opportunity to learn new things from within your profession and about other interests people in your profession share. Most importantly, networking opens the door for collaboration and future opportunities for jobs, project teams and even mentorship
Ganorkar: Be genuine. Enjoy the process. Hone your communication skills. Let go of beliefs that networking is an opportunistic exercise and change the framework to a win-win situation. Make it a fun event and address your anxiety in meeting new people and attending new events.
Montgomery: Commit to getting out there and talking to at least one person. I tend to be an introvert and when I got an assignment to be a vocational instructor in my trade in a new city, I knew I had to break out of my shell. So, after moving there, I committed to striking up a conversation with a complete stranger at a local bar/restaurant. It was the best thing that could ever happen—I made new friends in a new place I had never lived in and I improved my self-confidence.
Terrazas Escamilla: It may be tough at first to approach someone in person or ask for a connection over email. However, everyone in their respective fields has learned immensely through connections they created networking directly or indirectly. Many people say that your net worth one day is measured by your network. I like to think about all the incredible experiences every person we connect with can show us which leads to us becoming better leaders and, through time, better humans.
The views and opinions expressed in this content or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.
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Originally published October 11, 2021, updated November 11, 2021