No matter what kind of work you do or what stage you’re at in your career, there are gatekeepers to earning more. If you’re an employee working at a company, it could be the upper management team responsible for making compensation decisions. If you own a business or work for yourself, it might be prospective clients that you need to create a business relationship with.
The key to earning more through these gatekeepers is networking with them to exchange value. While the broad principles of networking always remain the same, there are a few different ways to go about it depending on what kind of relationships you’re looking to build. This article will offer a basic definition of networking and provide specific tips depending on the people you need to network with to increase your salary.
What is networking?
Like “marketing” or “synergy,” networking is one of those concepts that can be tough to define. Everyone has a slightly different idea about what networking means to them, based on their personal and professional experiences.
According to Entrepreneur magazine, networking can be defined as “developing and using contacts made in business for purposes beyond the reason for the initial contact.” Another good definition comes from the Harvard Business Review, which defines networking as “a way of making interesting friends for the long-term.”
Combining these two gives us a pretty solid definition: “making interesting friends for the long-term for purposes beyond the reason for initial contact.” An easy example is a salesperson who meets a prospect that may not be ready to purchase yet but could either make a purchase in the future or refer the sales rep to another potential customer.
This example also allows us to illustrate the key principle behind networking: exchanging value. Imagine that salesperson following up with the prospect every other week, emailing only to ask if they are ready to make a purchase yet. This is poor networking because it’s a one-way value exchange – the salesperson is just waiting to extract value from their contact without providing any of their own.
A more even exchange of value might see the sales rep offering information and case studies to their new contact, or answering a few questions about the challenges they’re facing until the prospect is ready to make a purchase.
Now that you know what networking is (and isn’t!), let’s dive into some more specific strategies on networking to increase income.
Connecting with employers
Networking with employers is relatively straightforward. Most businesses today are always on the search for skilled employees that fit their company’s goals and culture. This is especially true in India today, where hiring in the tech sector has increased by 50% just this year..
If you’re looking to earn more income by working for a new employer, attend industry events and groups to make yourself known to prospective employers. Don’t forget digital networking with social media and online communities – many relationships today are built and nurtured online.
As mentioned in the first section, networking is about an equal exchange of value. To offer value to prospective employers, be sure that you can offer the skills and/or experience they need and be able to communicate that concisely.
If you are looking to network to earn more money within your company, the specific strategies you use will depend on the type of business. Networking at a startup is much different than networking at a massive enterprise with hundreds (or thousands) of employees. No matter what kind of company you’re networking within, try to form relationships with the highest level managers you have access to, and always be gathering information about how the compensation process works at the company.
Connecting with clients
If you run a business or work as a contractor or freelancer, great news: Networking can be much more powerful as a tool to increase your salary (or income). That’s because there is no cap on how much you can earn when you’re self-employed. You’re limited only by the amount of clients or customers you can bring in, an activity that’s often accomplished by networking.
In fact, some of the most successful businesses – especially smaller ones – are able to survive solely because of their network.
As a business or self-employed networker, you don’t want to come off too heavy-handed with your efforts to find new clients. This is a common mistake – at almost any networking event, you’ll come across at least one person eagerly pushing their cards on people and giving them a 30-second pitch, whether they asked for it or not.
Instead, remember to follow the principles in the first section – provide them with some value! In some cases, you may be able to answer their questions about your industry, or you might connect with them on a totally different subject like a personal interest or hobby.
One more tip about networking with potential clients to earn more income: make sure you’re in groups with people who have both the need and ability for your offering. Ideally, you want to network with people willing to spend more than your current clients.
Connecting with peers through learning
The final way to network with people to earn more income is by networking with peer learners as you take training or courses online. While you may not think of it this way, online education is not only a great way to improve your professional skills, it creates a natural community with others. It’s easy for you to connect with classmates or others taking the same kind of training, even if it’s just done on social media.
This method isn’t as direct of a path to more income as the other two methods, but you can still get plenty of value out of connections with fellow learners. Remember the first definition we presented – down the road, you may have a need to interact with them for something outside of learning. They could be the ones to introduce you to a great new job opportunity or offer you one at their own company.
Social media makes it very easy to connect with people, even if you’re taking an online class with someone halfway around the world. Add them on LinkedIn or follow them on Twitter so that you can stay in touch and maintain the relationship going forward. Remember to be patient: networking in any capacity isn’t a quick fix to boost your income. It’s creating a long-term foundation that will help you throughout your career.
Conclusion: Always Be Networking
If you want to learn more, meet new people, and earn more money, networking is key. You have to meet and form a relationship with the people who can help you earn more, whether it’s a new employer or a prospective client for your business.
No matter what kind of networking you are doing, always remember the key principle of exchanging value. A one-sided business relationship won’t last very long – both parties need to gain something eventually. When in doubt, always be generous (within reason) when offering help or advice to others. Not only will people feel indebted to you, it’s simply the right thing to do.
Looking to learn about professional skills like networking and asking for a raise? Do you want to get yourself ready to work in India’s rapidly growing tech sector? Check out our application form to learn more about how Stoa’s online MBA program helps students take their careers to the next level.