I recently wrote a post about the benefits of effective networking. Since I published the post, I’ve had tons of people emailing, calling, and texting me about the article and how it reminded them to beef up their networking skills and reach out to those in their circle with whom they have similar interests. I also attended a awesome webinar with a great friend of mine who just launched a series of Bootcamp webinars for career advancement. It seemed only fitting that I publish a follow up post with more information.
Networking can be a delicate process. It can either go really well or really bad. Just because your network is small, does not mean that it’s necessary to go out and connect with the first person you see at the next After Hours Social. One bad reference can do a world of damage, and take months, or even years to repair. If you are contemplating doing business with someone or giving a reference for someone you just met, be sure to do your homework first. Pay extra attention to who you share information with. There are people who often seem like great connections, but can turn out to be your worst nightmare. It’s important to find out what their background, goals, and other associations are. Perhaps you have mutual friends in common that can give you a better idea of who they are. These details are important when deciding what the nature of your relationship will be in the future.
Having similar interests is not always a necessary component to establishing great networking connections. Many of my connections have emerged from relationships in which I had no idea would be mutually beneficial. I’ve maintained contact with friends from childhood and from college that ended up being great references for myself or for others in my circle. One of my very first friends in college has now become a reliable client of mine. We started college with completely different career paths, and never had any intention of working together, but today we enjoy an amazing business relationship that has also led to connections amongst others in our immediate circle. Maintaining a relationship with positive people can often lead to the sharing of ideas that may uncover hidden talents and encourage one another to embark upon new adventures.
Just like they say love comes when you least expect it; networking also blossoms when you least expect it. For years I never placed that much importance on my LinkedIn profile. I always had the mindset that unless I was actively looking employment, that it wasn’t that important to display my background and talents to others. I could not have been more wrong. Thankfully I took notes from others around me who were constantly updating their profiles and finding new connections, and decided to improve my profile. I made sure to list all of my projects and affiliations, and occasionally looked for new contacts. A chance meeting on LinkedIn eventually led to meeting someone who would eventually nominate me for a seat on a Board that is becoming instrumental in changing the educational structure in my community. Our backgrounds are completely unrelated, but something told me to reach out and connect with him. I had no idea when I reached out that a new profile photo and updates on my community service activities would lead to a working relationship that would inspire me to become a leader in the educational community.
Once you’ve established new connections, it’s important to continue to put time and energy into those relationships. It makes no sense to have amazing contacts if you never communicate with them, and they aren’t aware of what you’re doing. It’s important to take the time out to connect with people every once in a while. Many of us find ourselves in situations where we feel we are “too busy” to get out and have lunch or coffee with everyone we know. But a quick email, or a text message to say hello can always be beneficial. You may find that a friend with whom you lost contact needs a few words of encouragement. Or you may discover that they are engaging in projects that may be beneficial to someone else you may know. You may even find that they have noticed some of your recent work, and have been wanting to reach out to you. A quick message can open up the floor for conversations that may work to benefit multiple people, so take the time reach out to people in your circle.
Lastly, be social! You can’t establish relationships if you don’t get out and meet people. Some of my best friends in the world have been people that I’ve met through one particular friend who is extremely social. These relationships have led to business connections, child play dates, and even marriages. You never know what will unfold when you place yourself in a social setting. If you’re bold enough, you can even attend events alone. I have often gone to Mixers and Socials alone and ended up meeting people that have become a huge part of my life. It’s also great for watching how others interact with each other. You can take cues from others around you on what positive or negative things to do in a social setting. If you are apprehensive about attending events alone, make a deal with someone you know and convince them to attend with you. I can’t count how many events I’ve attended that have nothing to do with my background or industry. But these events led to opportunities that others could benefit from. They also inspired me to set new goals and tap into hidden potential.
Networking opportunities are everywhere. We just have to pay attention. Oftentimes we overlook opportunities that are right under our noses. No one can growth and flourish living in a bubble. We have to take advantage of our stock in “human capital” and make our connections work for us!