written for thINCubator by Jenni Birch | Jen’s Ideas

Building a network is essential for entrepreneurs, especially for those who are just starting out in their industry. Not only will good connections be valuable to your company in the long run, you may also benefit from personal development through your contacts.

So with that in mind, this article takes a look at some reasons why it’s an absolute must to develop your networking skills. It also provides a guide on how you can get started on building your own connections.

Here at Thincubator we believe in the power of collaboration to bring about success. Through networking, you will be able to meet like-minded people who will help you on your journey. You will get the chance to meet potential mentors who can give you guidance so you can achieve your goals, suppliers who can provide you with the goods and services that you need, or other professionals who you can brainstorm with you to transform your ideas a reality. Networking events can even serve as a platform for you to meet potential investors. Aside from the benefits, Business Insider says that building connections can also motivate you to push forward with your company, with your new contacts serving as an inspiration for you because they were able to achieve the same thing that you are looking to do in the long-term.

A good way to approach building a network is to look at it as part of your business. Startupist suggests creating a concrete plan, including what specific goals you want to achieve. From there, you can create a short list of which networking events will be most valuable for you and your business, as well as the kind of people you want to meet during the scheduled events.

However, simply showing up to these events isn’t enough in itself. In the same way that you are out to find people who can help you move forward, the other attendees also want to link up with people who can bring them closer to their goal/s. Therefore, it is crucial that you put your best foot forward. Menlo Coaching advises distinguishing yourself from the rest of the pack. It’s important to make sure that you have a unique approach and the people you meet know what it is you’re offering so you can build lasting relationships.

At the same time, ensure you don’t make it seem as though you are trying to oversell yourself or what you could potentially do for them or their business. My Entrepreneur Magazine recommends making a genuine effort to show professional interest in the people you meet. While it is important for you to get a word out on what you and your company can do, it is equally valuable for you to listen to what they have to say. Again, you might get the chance to meet someone who can mentor you, which is valuable to have as a budding entrepreneur, so make sure that you practice listening just as much as you chat to new acquaintances.

Admittedly, networking can be difficult to get used to, especially at your first few events. This is particularly challenging for introverts or shy individuals who have trouble starting and making conversation. Hackernoon encourages people to practice chatting with strangers, even outside of networking events. Doing so will not only help you build your self-confidence, striking up conversations with random strangers may actually result in forming a good working relationship.

Once the connection has been established, it is equally important that you keep the lines of communication strong. Don’t take it for granted that the networking event is enough to establish a lead. Stay in touch. That way, you will be easy to remember in case they need your services in the future. Make sure that you build deep, meaningful connections, because these are more likely to last a lifetime.

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