How To Network Like A Pro

Having an established network has become a critical part of our professional lives. Done right, networking can provide a range of benefits, including the exchange of knowledge, resources and ideas that can take your marketing or agency career to the next level and foster friendships along the way. 

Networking comes in multiple forms: meeting people one-on-one, having a regular conference call with a mentor or peer, attending industry events or connecting via social media. Similarly, networking can take place at work, in a meeting or at a social outing. Any situation that involves interaction with other people poses an opportunity for expanding a network. At Jive PR + Digital, we believe our networks are our lifeline.

Here are four tips to network like a pro: 

1. Build Genuine Relationships

Networking is a skill beyond a numbers game or talking to a multitude of different people. Rather, one quality connection or conversation is better than 20 superficial ones. Whether you’re at a conference or social outing, focus on creating genuine relationships based on listening, reciprocity and shared interests and goals. 

Networking can also lead to lifelong friendships, so next time you’re at an event, extend an invitation first. If you’re at a conference and connect with the person next to you, simply invite them to lunch or for a drink in the evening. Initiating the connection in this way will lay the foundation for conversations where you’re bound to find further common interests.

2. Help Your Network

Always offer before you ask and give with generosity. Ask about another person's current projects and take a genuine interest in what they’re working on. Offer to help, and if you don’t have knowledge of the particular subject, offer a contact instead. Knowing a person who can help a contact is synonymous with helping them yourself.

Similarly, remember that business relationships are a two-way street. It's OK to ask for help when you need it — more professionals than not are happy to offer their advice and expertise. During the ask, be as specific as possible, concise, thoughtful and well-written. If they agree to help you, remember to say thank you.

3. Stay In Touch

Frequency and reciprocity of communication can help strengthen relationships. One of the easiest ways to expand and strengthen your network is to build on relationships you already have. This can translate to staying in touch with your connections or strengthening your least obvious ones like an old colleague or neighbor. 

Reach out periodically, every five months or so, just to say hello. Another way to stay in touch is through social media. We use platforms such as Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter to interact with colleagues, clients and prospects. It’s one of the best ways we’ve found to stay updated and in touch, and we’ve had many positive experiences with recruitment via these social media connections. 

4. Diversify Your Events

Attending industry-relevant conferences or summits allows you to meet people with similar interests and provides opportunities to brainstorm and connect with them on a personal level. Another way to take your event networking to the next level is through showcasing your expertise as a speaker instead of an attendee. 

Speaking at an event boosts your credibility as a thought leader in the space and gives a platform to offer your insights to others. I like to switch my events up and attend those I normally wouldn’t consider. This way, I can exchange knowledge with others outside of my direct industry and gain new insights.

Networking can seem daunting, but with prioritization, excitement and a growth mindset, the return will be worth the investment. When it comes to brand building, there is no substitute for relationship development.

This article was originally published on Forbes.com.