I remember the first time I heard the word ‘networking’. I was a sophomore at Manchester Central High School and sitting in the “PA” building in my Marketing 1 class. We were prepping to head to our state competition for DECA and our advisor wanted to make sure we understood that there would be many business leaders attending. We discussed the importance of first impressions, nuances of professional encounters and what types of things we could get out of simply having conversations with this network. Eleven years later, there has not been a day that has passed when I haven’t relied on or referenced my ever-expanding network. In fact, I am getting married this spring, and every single one of my vendors was a 1st or 2nd connection through my network.
The value in building a network though is diminished if you do not actually use it (correctly). Here are a few tips I have learned in regards to networking as a young professional:
1. Job Hunting Is Much Easier When You Know Someone
This is more true now than ever before. In an age when we have access to everything we could possibly want to know, and we make educated purchasing decisions, we have come to rely on “reviews” to weed through our “purchases.” Think about it: if you are going to buy a new car, what is the first thing you would do? Seek opinions from family/friends and search for reviews from those who have purchased the vehicle. When you are job hunting, see who you know that may have a connection at the company. Every single one of my jobs I have EVER had came from someone I knew… even my first job at 15 years old! And remember to pass the favor along when trusted professionals in your network are seeking employment.
2. Business Shared Benefits Both
When you are seeking a business for a product or service, either in your professional or personal life, why not give that business to someone within your network? For example, in my current position as Brand Manager for Cohen Closing & Title, if someone tells me they are looking for a lender or real estate agent, you can bet on it that I am going to give them options from our valued partners. The same applies if someone is looking for a photographer or a caterer; why not share names of people who offer those services within your network? Chances are, if you are someone who consistently offers referrals, you will also start to reap the benefits when they have the opportunity to share your name. Our motto at Cohen is, “if our valued partners are busy, we are busy.” Share the wealth, pass the buck, spread the word; however you want to refer to it, take advantage of opportunities to earn your network business.
3. Never Burn A Bridge
Life can get us down sometimes, especially when we are just starting out. It is important to understand though, that your network you have built is a) just as valuable whether you are with the company or not, and b) your reputation precedes you. This one is simple, lead your life the way you’d want someone to talk about you. Because they will. So make sure it is only good things they will be saying!
I am beyond thankful for the opportunities that my network has afforded me. I recognize that I would not be where I am today, personally or professionally, without those who have helped me along the way. Being able to return the favor and help those in my network find a job or earn new business is equally as rewarding.
Stacey Breton is the Brand Manager for Cohen Closing & Title, a forward thinking real estate settlement services company with a referral based philosophy. Born and raised in Southern New Hampshire, she graduated with her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Marketing from Southern New Hampshire University. Along with her position at Cohen Closing & Title, Stacey also teaches a Foundations of Marketing course on campus at SNHU throughout the year. She is a Granite Stater to the core and loves all things New Hampshire, especially riding the trails in Bear Brook State Park with her horses.