How To Network After Work (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar - Dec. 15, 2020
Articles In Life At Work Guide

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Five o’clock rolls around, and you’re racing home after a long, hard day. Right? Nope! If you want to get ahead, you’re on your way to a networking event.

If you think that networking events are just an excuse for having a few drinks and flirting – well, you’re probably going to the wrong events. Remember the adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” That’s even more true today, and networking is the best way to build your who-you-know resume.

What Is Networking?

Networking is a way to make personal connections and interact with other people in a business casual way. Networking isn’t just talking to people, although it may seem that way at first.

The networking event or happy hour is one of the most common (or at least the top-of-mind ideas) when it comes to socializing for business purposes – but it’s not the only option.

Successful Ways to Network

If you’re not great with socializing and small talk – let’s face it, you’re an introvert who hates networking. If hanging out in a bar doesn’t seem professional to you or if there are a ton of reasons you don’t like work happy hours, that’s okay – you have options.

  • Use Technology. We live in an app-based world, which is just fine for some people. When meeting in person with people just isn’t your thing, or it’s not possible, then using an app to connect might be the way to go.

    There are a lot of business networking apps out there. Some include LinkedIn, Shapr, Invitly, LunchMeet, and Brella.

  • Volunteer. Getting outside of your office and meeting people in different industries is always useful. Some professions are very flexible, and you can work in just about any type of job, so why not spread your awesomeness around.

    Volunteering at an organization will introduce you to lots of people, giving you a comfortable common ground to talk about. The people you meet also see you in a favorable light since you’re volunteering for a cause they believe in.

    Maybe they won’t have a job for you in the future, but they might recommend you for your dream job.

  • Use Social Media. Cultivate your professional profile on social media by putting yourself out there and establishing your authority. It’s a good idea (for most people) to have a personal persona on social media and a business one.

    This way, you can cultivate work relationships without sharing pictures of your food with them or having them watch your latest TikTok duet. In fact, those personal things are the last thing you want to share when networking.

  • Join Professional Groups. If your profession has a local organization, a chapter, a group of any kind – join it. This will help you meet like-minded people and will keep you fresh and abreast of all trends. It might also help you find a job in the future or find someone you can trust when you need help or advice.

    Job type you want
    Full Time
    Part Time
    Internship
    Temporary
  • Service Organizations. The Elks Club and Kiwanis Club are not what they used to be, but they’re still there. Groups that are designed to do good deeds are also all about helping each other. This is a wonderful way to make a difference and be connected to some people with clout.

  • Friends and Family. Do you know what all of your friends and family members do professionally? Some people say never to mix business with friends and family, and other people find them to be some of their best job leads and referrals. It’s all about how you work it.

  • Happy Hours. There’s a reason that these happy hour networking events are what people associate with networking – they work. Try one or two. Maybe you’ll find that you like them. Just remember to only have one drink, if you have a drink at all. You don’t what to be “that person” and ruin your reputation.

Why Is Networking Important?

Networking is essential if you want to get ahead in business or even stay where you are. It’s a critical piece of developing a professional reputation and expanding your knowledge base.

People who are good at networking aren’t just looking for a new job; they’re building a network of people with expertise in many different fields. Think of it as a career safety net. If you need something, you have someone you can connect with in that field. If not, chances are you know someone who knows someone. You can find people easily and that means that people can easily find you.

Your professional reputation can mean everything. Being known in your community, industry, or with everyone you meet as a skilled and intelligent leader in your field is crucial. We can’t emphasize this enough. If you want to do well in business, then being thought of highly (no matter what you do) is essential.

Today, all businesses are moving quickly. Technology is changing at an exponential pace, and it’s so easy to get lost and left behind. It’s hard to come up with any profession that hasn’t been changed by technology in the last decade.

Many have seen dramatic changes even in the last year. Being a great networker keeps you in the trenches and introduces you to tech in different ways. It also gives you resources when you have questions.

It’s fun. Let’s not forget that you love what you do. At least, you should. Networking lets you talk about your business. Learn more from other people. Consider different options, ideas, and avenues. Where your significant other may be sick of work talk, or not understand it, your networking buddies love getting all career chatty with you.

How Can Networking Help You?

Networking will help you in the following ways:

  • Stay Trendy. Networking means communicating with people in your industry and at the cutting edge of other professions. This helps you stay on top of industry trends and be in the know. Well-rounded, current, and techy are outstanding characteristics in modern business.

  • Resources for Questions and Projects. Your boss asks you to track the UX from the new landing page using big head and long-tail keyword signifiers. You’re not sure if she was asking you something real or speaking gibberish. But you certainly don’t want to let her know you have no idea what she wants.

    This is where asking your network for information can be very useful. They won’t just decode the instructions; they can tell you how to do it.

  • Top-of-Mind. A company needs a quick freelance writer for a project they’re working on. They don’t want to go through an entire hiring process. But if all goes well, this could lead to a very lucrative, permanent position.

    Because you’ve been doing your networking regularly, they know where they can find that freelance writer with one email. Of course, you don’t have to be a writer to see the benefits of situations like these.

  • Builds Your Professional Reputation. Jim never networks; Tim is continuously doing it. Jim and Tim have exactly the same experience level, they do the same job; they even have the same personalities.

    But Tim is thought of as a leader because people know him. They know what he does and how he does it. Jim doesn’t talk to anyone, so he has no reputation outside of his cubicle.

  • Can Help You Move Ahead in Your Job. There are so many different ways you can use your network to get ahead. Whether it’s moving to another company, advancing in your current workplace, or becoming a well-respected thought leader that others turn to. All good moves, careerwise.

  • More in Touch with Career Openings. You hear a lot through the grapevine. Company A is expanding your division. Company B is about to lose some key personnel. Jimmy is quitting his job, and a new company is coming to town. When you’re in the know, you can get to the finish line first.

  • Develop Important Social Relationships. Sometimes the people you meet through business-related activities become your best friends or even your spouse.

    Some of these friendships become the ones you need to have a full and happy life. Social interactions are crucial to mental health and happiness and those people might come from networking.

  • Fresh Perspectives and New Ideas. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and doing the same thing makes it seem like the only way to do it. And then you talk to someone else and you have that lightbulb moment. There are many great ways to think about things if you open yourself up to hearing them.

  • Strengthens Current Connections. Nursing your network is just as important as creating one. The stronger the bonds, the more potential benefits exist.

  • Boosts Confidence and Self-esteem. There’s something utterly wonderful about being asked how you would do something. Being seen as an expert or having others ask your opinion is a great feeling.

    Even just being in the know and with a group of people who are focused on professional growth helps your self-esteem.

Tips and Tricks for Successful Networking

Now that you’re sold on the idea, how do you network successfully and not make any networking mistakes? These networking tips should help you.

  • Think Long-term. Networking is not about getting a new job tomorrow. It’s not about calling in a favor next week. Networking is all about the long game and getting you ahead in your business by continually building that web of people.

  • Don’t Ask for a Job. This can and probably will immediately backfire. Suddenly, you don’t feel like a like-minded professional but someone looking for something. Sure, maybe everyone is looking for their next great gig, but don’t advertise it.

  • Be a Good Listener. This is all about you without you having to be in the spotlight. Being a good listener is one of the most important skills you can have in the business world.

    Work on that skill and try to encourage others to talk. If you let them talk about themselves, they’ll like you even more.

  • Be Appropriate. You may have a hilarious story or a great joke to tell, but if they’re not appropriate, then you shouldn’t share them with your networking group. Save those stories for your close friends.

  • Ask for Advice and Tips. If you’re working on a project and you need some advice, go ahead and ask others how they’d handle it. This might be where some of your best ideas and knowledge originates.

  • Give Advice and Tips. Don’t be a know-it-all but if you do have an answer or a possible solution for someone, offer it up. This is a great way to establish your credibility and your willingness to collaborate with others. Remember, a favor given can be a favor earned.

  • Don’t Share Company Secrets. Never get specific about anything in your company. Don’t talk about clients, co-workers, bosses, etc. And make sure your lips are closed when it comes to projects that aren’t public knowledge.

    This is not only a surefire way to destroy the career you have, but it can also make you very unappealing to others.

  • Be Grateful. Thank your new connections for chatting with you, for any advice they give – whatever they do for you, make sure you’re grateful. The “networking you” should be the best version of you possible.

  • Follow Up and Through. If you say you’re going to call someone, do it. This isn’t like a get-together with friends where you say you’ll call but everyone knows you won’t. You should keep in touch with your new network and always keep your promises.

  • Everyone is Equal. Treat everyone equally. This is a network, it’s not a hierarchy. The CEO of the company you want to work for is as important as their newest hire. You never know how those relationships will play out in the long run.

  • Forget About You. Do you want a lot from your network – of course. The best way to create a strong network is to be more focused on others. Strangely, this works, and it ends up better for you in the end.

  • Dress for It. This doesn’t work in all networking situations, but it does if you’re going to a networking event. Always dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

    This can be a big plus in your favor as people at networking events will see you in the job you want. They will judge you based on how you look. It’s true and not entirely fair, but you can use it to your advantage.

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Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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