We all have that one friend who seems to know someone for every job. No matter the situation, they always have people in all the right places. How can someone have all these connections? Well, I can tell you that building a network like that isn’t easy. In fact, it’s a concentrated sustained effort to put yourself out there and and build those connections.
To understand how to build your network, it is important to first understand why you should strive to build your network. Building your network can be compared to sowing seeds in the ground. Just like how you plant your seeds today so tomorrow they become beautiful blooming flowers, you must work to build your network today so tomorrow you can call on those connections when you need them. For example, to stand a chance in my student council elections, I have to campaign heavily and gather votes. This process is lonely and can be draining, but it is made easier because I am able to call on the people I know in the student body to vote and campaign for me. A solid network can support you and your professional endeavors.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can talk about the steps required to build a network of that magnitude. First of all, it is essential that you introduce yourself to everyone that you talk to. This means giving your name, credentials, and your social media. This lets you establish your presence in a professional manner while also making yourself memorable. Secondly, you want to find points of similarity between you and your networkee, whether that is a common hobby or a class you’ve both taken. This allows you to further the conversation while also creating a bond because people tend to like people who are similar to them. Finally, you want to center the conversation around the other person by asking open ended questions and being actively interested in what they’re saying. This makes the other person feel important and more likely to remain in your network.
You can make as many connections as you want, but if you don’t maintain them, it is all pointless. Thankfully, maintaining connections in today’s digital age could be as simple as keeping up with your connections on social media. For more professional ventures, this means Linkedin, and for more casual ones this is Instagram. Either way, you want to engage with their content and check up on them every once in a while, maybe even collaborate on a project or invite them out to lunch! Ultimately it is up to you how you build and maintain your network as there is no steady surefire way to making connections.
This is by no means a comprehensive guide to networking, but it is definitely somewhere to start if you are looking to up your network! If you’d like to be a part of my network, follow me on Instagram @jilkajp_05
Aarav Jilka is the Oklahoma DECA VP of Leadership for Council 79. He attends Edmond Santa Fe High School.