One of the most-used words in any entrepreneur’s vocabulary should be “networking.” However, they shouldn’t just use it as a buzzword. They need to really think about what it means and how it can take their careers in new directions. Here are some aspects of effective networking that entrepreneurs should strive to understand.

Start Early

Being an entrepreneur requires a decent amount of guts, but you also need to be prepared before taking the plunge. Everyone starts from square one, but there can still be some leadup to square one. Ideally, you should have a network already established before you even start your business, according to Daymond John. It’s key to have those connections and available tools at your disposal before you even consider quitting your day job. Connections are key to business success. Building up connections should be a priority. These should be people who will help you with breaking ground for your business, either through direct involvement or influence. Invite them to offer as many opinions as possible, even ones that might hurt your feelings a bit. It’s better to hear the truth before you’re scrambling to undo your mistakes.

Give—Don’t Just Take

Networking shouldn’t be a parasitic practice. According to Jeff Goins, making connections with others in your industry won’t get you very far if it becomes evident that you only care about what they can do for you. If you’re hitting it off with someone and have already explained what your aims are, show that you’re interested in what they want. Think about how you can help them. They might be in a field that you’re not very familiar with but someone you know is. Being a good networker doesn’t mean that you have to solve everyone’s problems. It means that you’re as good as listening as you are at speaking.

Be Persistent

In a perfect world, you could exchange business cards with someone at a luncheon, and the next day, they want to invest in your company. But in reality, networking is more exhaustive. Gen Twenty suggests that once you get a good lead, follow up on it. Shoot the other person an email and invite them to continue the discussion. Avoid bombarding them with messages and calls. If it peters out, you can at least acknowledge that you tried your best.

Entrepreneurs aren’t born. They’re developed through creativity, persistence, and open-mindedness. Networking is all about being open-minded because you’re constantly entertaining the possibility that you’ll be able to help someone and/or that they’ll do the same for you. Not every networking attempt will pan out, but the frequency at which you do it will help you develop a better strategy and hopefully lead to more success.

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