Networking is one of those things you know you should be doing more of but always seem to put off. Maybe it’s because you don’t have the time or maybe you’re just not all that enthusiastic about it – for every businessperson who loves to network, there’s one who dreads it.
Do you really need to be networking? Yes. Resoundingly yes! The fact is, the more people you meet in your industry, the more you learn and the more opportunities come your way – it’s absolutely vital to growth and getting your name out there. It doesn’t mean you need to start out with a huge network, but you do need to start. And it’s really not that hard.
Here are three simple ways to get stuck in:
Build a list of contacts. Figure out who’s in your network – maybe you know them personally, through an associate or via some intrepid LinkedIn stalking. It doesn’t matter – if they’re in your professional orbit, add them to your list. These are the people you’re going to meet, trade cards with, email, and (ideally) establish relationships with.
Apart from the obvious info like their name and company, capture details like who they were referred or recommended by, the last time you communicated, and any relevant opportunities or interests. Once you click ‘save’, don’t relegate the file to your archives – keep it fresh and up to date. If you’re feeling bold, fire off a cold email introducing yourself and inviting them for a coffee and a chat.
Hang out where they hang out. Look for business networking events, conferences and meet-ups where the role-players you’ve identified are likely to be, then get on the guest list. Make sure you have your business cards at the ready. Also, remember you’re unlikely to seal any deals at the very first meeting. Says ‘serial entrepreneur’ Matt Galligan, “[The] golden rule at all times is that you never try to get to a final conclusion in the very first interaction. If your goal is a career, and your goal is developing a network, you need to understand that it’s exactly like dating. Your goal at the end of the day should be to get another date, not just hook up.”
Which brings us to following up. In a busy networking situation, it can be tricky to have meaningful interactions. If you meet someone you’d love to chat to but can’t get a word in, ask for their card, suggests Galligan. Then follow up with an email. He says he doesn’t have much time for cold emails, so if you’re sending one, think about asking the recipient three pertinent questions to make it easier for them to bang out a reply.
Of course, these steps are easier for extroverts and those who enjoy the schmooze. For others – maybe you’re one of them – networking doesn’t come as naturally. If you’re more introverted, here are some great tips for starting a conversation at a networking event. It’s useful to remember that people like to be helpful, particularly towards those facing the same challenges they once did – and generally, they’re happy to dispense advice too.
Found this blog post useful? Subscribe and get more insights delivered to your inbox. No spam, I promise 🙂