Everyone tells us we have to network to get ahead in our careers. You need to be involved, no one is going to knock on your door or email you while you sit at your computer and push pixels around in Photoshop. You have to meet people in order for them to know who you are and in turn hire you to do work in the future. Of course, just because you are networking doesn’t mean that all you need to be doing is building your contact list. Networking is about more than just getting emails and phone numbers. Don’t be the person at the networking event just walking around handing out cards. I can’t tell you the amount of cards I have from people that just handed me a card without really talking with me and the next day I have no idea who they are or why I have their business card. When you have the opportunity to meet someone face to face and get an idea of who they are don’t just talk about work in the hopes of future employment, instead think of it as a chance to build real true genuine connections. You’d be surprised to find out that you will have a much more meaningful conversation with someone if you’re not thinking the whole time how can this person help my career.
There are a number of people in the community that I got to know over the years who have now become people I enjoy hanging out with outside of work. Since becoming friends with them they are the first people I look to when I need someone to help with a project and I would hope I’m on their list as well. Someone you call a friend is more than likely to hire you or pass your name on for a job then a random person you meet at last weeks meetup. You should open yourself up to not just meeting potential coworkers or clients at meetups and events but also long-lasting relationships or at least meaningful acquaintances. In ten or more years are those business contacts you made going to make a difference? Are they the people you invite to your 50th birthday celebration? So don’t just think of networking as a way to add more followers on twitter or connections on LinkedIn. You never know who you’re going to meet, it could be new friends, new business contacts, or life long friends who are also business contacts.