By Sally Johnson - Customer Success Manager
Networking is For Everyone
Some people are naturally social creatures. These individuals constantly have plans on the weekends, love to attend parties and are actively engaged in social media. Networking comes naturally to them. For others, networking can be much more difficult. Luckily for even the most introverted of individuals, it isn’t just about social gatherings and social media status updates. The good news is that you can use networking as a strategic social effort by connecting with those who bring some type of value to you and your professional career. To be successful you will want to return the favor. Above all, remember - networking isn’t a one-time thing – it’s a lifestyle.
1. How to Get Started
Think of networking as a spider web. You start really small, with one point of contact and you expand on it, using each point to grow your web. Once you have a web started, now what? Here are a few simple goals to keep in mind to continue to strengthen and grow your network:
- Think of something interesting you can share with your network every day whether it is an article, idea, posing a question or a great link for new tools and resources in the industry. The more relevant information your network sees from you, the more you are remembered.
- If you want to be more strategic, you can join associations and groups in your area which can give you opportunities to speak with a particular type of person.
- Always have a short and precise elevator speech ready at will. It should include, what you do, what you are looking for and a call to action (usually a business card to exchange for future contact).
Having something to offer those you are adding to your network will give you an advantage. Find out what is important to them. This will help you leverage what you want in the future.
2. Bring Value to Your Network : Share First; Ask Second
Let’s say you are completely happy with your job right now and think to yourself, “I really have no need to network or think about other opportunities.” You don’t go out of your way to connect with people. You happen to go to a dinner function where you meet, Bob, an executive from a growing local company. You share a conversation, exchange business cards and talk about connecting on LinkedIn. You connect on LinkedIn and see that they are looking to add a sales manager to their staff so you reach out to Bob and introduce him to your friend who is looking. They end up interviewing your friend and Bob is happy to have found the right fit for the job. In two months, your company goes through layoffs and now you are out of a job. The first thing you do is reach out to your network which now includes Bob. You let them know that you are looking and ask if anyone knows of any openings. Bob is delighted to help. He introduces you to a friend who is adding to his team and you get the interview. That’s what we call a networking win-win-win – proactively prepare for your future by offering value today. Which leads me to my next point…
3. Benefit From Networking
Here’s where the “WIIFM” comes into play. If you are hesitant to jump into networking head first because it’s just “not you” then this section is most definitely for you.
- Regardless of your current career situation, network. You never know when your profession will suddenly change and you will need a connection to a new opportunity – for you or someone you know.
- While actively networking you will be exposed to new tools and resources that can help you in your career or with your hobbies and interests. It’s doesn’t have to be “all business” all the time.
- Nothing keeps you in the “know” with industry knowledge and trends more than networking. You don’t want to be the last one to know about the latest acquisition or the newest startup on the scene in your space. In fact, it’s impressive when you are the one to break the news to your contacts and keeps you ahead of the competition.
- Testing new ideas is easy when you are well-connected. Depending on your goal, you can network with a specific crowd/group. You can start discussions, ask questions that are relevant to your core network and turn around to give value back to your connections with the knowledge you gain.
Overall, the idea behind networking is to be yourself and have fun while meeting new people. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t still remain strategic to meet your own goals.