Entrepreneurs understand that networking is important when building a business. Because many of us are not naturally inclined to network and the best methods may not be intuitively obvious, we want to offer some tips to help you get started.
1. Don’t expect anything in return. Give before you receive in a networking situation. Offer support to others, and you may find yourself surprised at the connections you make. Create win-win situations where both you and your fellow networker gain equally. If you benefit more than the other party, that person may not be interested in a long-term relationship with you.
2. Focus on the people you need to meet. You don’t necessarily want to meet every single person at a networking event. If you’re looking for an accountant, for example, you might consider attending networking events for accountants. Make connections with the people who are most likely to help make a difference in your career.
3. Keep abreast of your industry. Read the news, subscribe to various newsletters, listen to podcasts, and stay tuned in to what’s going on in your field. This will help you grow in your career and start meaningful conversations about professional topics. You might also consider following your industry’s movers and shakers on social media—and even interacting with them.
4. Use social media. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media can not only help you find people to add to your network but can also help you stay in touch with them. Pro tip: use the search features on these sites to find people in your profession, in the professions you’re looking for, and even to find people who work at specific organizations.
5. Stay in touch. Nearly everyone has a story about a person who reached out after months or years of no contact. Did they only contact you because they wanted something? If so, you might have felt awkward about the situation. So—don’t be that person. Cultivate your network carefully and be sure to reach out to everyone regularly. Pro tip: Consider sending an article that you think may interest this contact periodically to keep the dialog open.
6. Connect others. Even if someone you meet won’t necessarily be of direct benefit to you, you never know when you can introduce people who can benefit from meeting each other. By building connections across your network, you can create great rapport with as many people as possible. Over time, professionals may even begin coming to you for advice or may provide contacts of interest to you.
7. Create your own group. If you haven’t found the right networking group in your area, why not create one? With websites like Meetup.com and Eventbrite.com, you can create topic-based events for people interested in just about anything. Whether you are looking for marketers, attorneys, or a book club, people will want to meet you because you created the group.
8. Stay in the searching mindset. Most people who are looking for a job network more than those who are in a stable situation. Don’t let yourself get complacent once you’re settled in your role. Continue reaching out to connections, following up with contacts from previous meetings, searching for local job fairs and networking events, and registering for conferences.
By spending just a few minutes a day on building and maintaining your professional network, you’ll be surprised how quickly you can expand the depth and reach of your network, gain industry expertise and meet some very interesting people along the way. For more advice, let’s work together!