Networking in the new economy

Networking has always been a long standing pillar of a successful career, but the business world has changed, meaning the world in which we meet people has as well.

No matter if you’re starting a new business or expanding your current enterprise, networking plays a huge role in the corporate world. It can help you establish clients, meet future employers, and open business opportunities that would not have existed otherwise. However, networking is not like most other elements of business. You are not buying or selling a product, nor are you entering into some sort of contract. On the surface, it would seem as if nothing ever really comes networking besides the exchange of a business card. However, this simple exchange is symbolic of something that can do wonders for marketing your business – a relationship.

Where would the economic world be if not for relationships? They are essential to every facet of enterprise. Be it the decision to hire or promote, to enter into a contract with another company or even to cease business with another company, all of these day to day actions are based on the relationship between two parties. The value of business relationships cannot be overstated. But the world of networking is changing before our eyes.

The economy is going global. Two company leaders can do business with each without ever having met in person (though with video conferencing they can meet face to face) as the Internet has made making connections between two people as simple as clicking a button.

This doesn’t mean that the days of meeting in person are gone either. Networking is now possible in many different ways, through forging business relationships on LinkedIn, to meeting at trade conferences, there is almost always an opportunity to network. All these possibilities can get confusing as relationships can move from an in person trade conference to an online connection and vice versa, so the following are a series of tips to help you make the most out of every networking opportunity.

Old-school networking
Networking in person has been an element of business for centuries. Meeting people and creating new business relationships has always been part of the business world. The key is making sure that you have good people skills.

What is important to realize when you are at a networking event is that everyone is there for the same reason as you – to meet people in the trade and create new business connections. This means that you cannot be afraid to go up and talk to someone. While it can seem intimidating at first to start a conversation with a stranger, even a simple “how are you” can be enough to start a new relationship.

Once you get into the discussion make sure to keep in mind that this is not a sales pitch, it is an opportunity to create a relationship. This means that you should not be continually pushing for a contract or sale. It is important to make sure that the person with whom you are speaking to has an opportunity to speak so that you can find places in which you would mutually benefit from knowing each other.

This will help you create a genuine relationship with your possible networking comrade. An article on Entrepreneur stresses that you should be enticing people with your passion rather than the deal you are trying to pitch. If you show others that you are passionate about your business, other are likely to reveal why they are passionate about their’s creating meaningful grounds on which to make a new connection.

The online social world
An online networking relationship can either be the start or the follow up to a business partnership. The Internet is now just as viable a way to meet other professionals as meeting people in person – you just need to make sure you are going about it the right way.

LinkedIn has become among the most pervasive online professional social media tools. With the click of a button you can not only connect with people you have met before, but also reach out to other professionals who are two or three degrees removed to establish relationships that could ultimately end up beneficial. If you are having trouble making the most out of this tool, however, you are not alone.

A story in U.S. News & World Report explains some of the missteps that people are making when using LinkedIn. Similar to in-person networking, if you are immediately trying to get something out of the connection you have made on LinkedIn, it is probably going to prove unsuccessful. The point is to create a relationship in the professional world, so it would help to ask for tips or information about a market rather than making a deal right then and there. Another important thing to keep in mind is that the connections you make should be within reason. In the same way you wouldn’t try to call a movie star to go to the movies, you should not be try to network with the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

Following through
While these tips are important for starting a new business relationship, they are only the beginning. It is important to follow through with your new networking connections as the point is that they are the beginning of a new relationship. However, to turn these connections into business prospects for the future you need to make sure that you are in constant contact with your potential partners.

Are you an expert networker? If so, what strategies have you used to make lasting connections?

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