Whether you’re looking to move up within your company or over into a better paying administrative job across town, you need to keep one important fact in mind: Who you know matters.

 

But there’s an art to professional networking.

 

The most effective way to enlarge your circle of contacts is to go online, according to 47 percent of respondents to an OfficeTeam survey. About a quarter preferred meeting over lunch or coffee. No matter which method you like best, the goal is to build positive relationships with a variety of people in as many industries as possible. Here are eight networking tips every administrative professional needs to know.

1 Be ready. Potential connections are all around you: at the airport, in line at the coffee shop, at a social function. To grow your network, be prepared to meet people wherever you go. Keep your elevator pitch polished, and always carry business cards with you.

 

2 Follow up promptly. After you’ve made a new professional acquaintance in person, take time to deepen the relationship while you both still remember the conversation. A good first step is to send the individual a LinkedIn invitation. Then follow up with a personal message to say it was a pleasure meeting him or her.

 

3 Cultivate your relationships. Whether you’ve been acquainted with a professional contact for 10 days or 10 years, strengthen it with thoughtful gestures. See a job opening someone might be interested in? Forward that person the posting. If you come across an article about a topic you two were just talking about, email the link and add a few lines of commentary. When LinkedIn sends you notifications about promotions, new jobs and work anniversaries, send a quick congratulatory note.

 

4 Be generous. Find ways to assist others when they need it. As motivational speaker Brian Tracy said, “Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’” Make it a habit to give more than you take.
5 Dare to ask. Most professionals like to give a hand; it makes them feel respected and needed. In fact, according to the OfficeTeam survey mentioned above, the top networking mistake people make is not asking for help when they need it. So if you need a favor, such as an introduction or for someone to serve as a reference, don’t be shy about reaching out and making the request.

 

6 Know when to stop. As much as people want to help, no one wants to be peppered with requests. After someone has done you a good turn, send a polite thank-you letter, ask how you can return the favor and then back off gracefully.

 

7 Mix it up. Online social networking is easy and effective, but don’t let that be your only channel for developing contacts and enlarging your circle. Face-to-face meetings can build rapport in a way that electronic communication can’t. You get to put a face to a name and make a memorable first impression through your interactions. Connecting in person can take more time and effort than connecting online, but can deliver much more value over the long term.

 

Here are some in-person networking tips:

  • Attend company-wide social functions, which will help put faces to names and strengthen in-house relationships.
  • Join a professional organization and attend its conferences and networking events.
  • Take continuing education courses, which serve the dual purpose of increasing your marketability and meeting new people.

 

Keep in mind that you can develop relationships through one-on-one meetings and interactions with others at events, then use online networking to nurture these connections.

 

8 Widen your network. As an administrative professional, you can work in a variety of fields, which is why you shouldn’t limit your contacts to just your present industry or to other support staff. The more diverse your professional network, the more you’ll be exposed to opportunities and perspectives.

 

Learning how to network effectively is an important skill to have in your professional toolkit. When you grow your professional network, your career will likely grow along with it.

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Robert Hosking is the former Executive Director of OfficeTeam (www.officeteam.com). OfficeTeam is a division of Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. The company has more than 300 staffing locations worldwide and offers ... (Read More)

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