3 Ways to Grow Your Professional Network

Whether it’s an informal coffee date with a friend’s friend or an hour of non-stop seat-swapping, many of us experience useless, or at the very least, awkward networking events. Here are some tips on how to avoid these time traps and grow your professional network more organically and efficiently.

Step away from the social networks.

We’ve all heard about the trending social websites and how a “+1,” “like,” “RT” and “share” are worth more than an old fashioned conversation because of their social visibility. Although virtual networking may pad those often-arbitrary numbers, nothing can replace a meaningful connection through an actual face-to-face conversation. The next time you are about to start poking strangers over the web, take the time to meet with one of your better leads face-to-face. The physical impression you will make with one person is much more meaningful than any virtual encounter, and you might be surprised how many likes your Facebook page will get as a result.

Think quality over quantity.

One of the easiest ways to burn out of professional networking is to meet with a bunch of people who, let’s face it, you can’t remember – and who will likely not remember you. What tends to happen is that you’ll get a bunch of business cards that do little more than create more work for you – via follow-up calls and emails. Instead, be smarter with what functions you attend. Pick fewer, higher quality functions and only go when you feel motivated. You’ll be able to remember faces and names more readily and be more personable simultaneously. Even though you might end up with fewer business cards, you will likely see better results.

Don’t limit yourself to networking events.

Next time you feel the need to go to a networking event, consider going to a business course or seminar that interests you instead. Keep in mind, it doesn’t even have to relate to your specific field. Beyond learning something new, you will likely find that the people there are easier to approach. This is also a more fertile place to find leads, as you can be assured there will be fewer salesman, and more businesspeople. If nothing else, you will have established a connection with the speaker – who will likely be the best one you could hope to find. In short, swapping a networking event with an interesting learning opportunity could kill two birds with one stone.