Whether you’re in college, just graduated, 10 years into your career or wanting to start a new one, networking is key. It’s how you find your next job, it’s how you grow your business and most importantly it’s how you create a support group. I’ve had to network for years now and today I want to share some of my tips. I’ve also enlisted the help of one of the most well connected people I know in my life, Bridgett. Her entire job is to network and build connections. We fine tuned this list that’s easy to follow and will for sure help grow your business and network in 2018.
Why do I think I’m an authority on networking? Well from being in college and trying to get a job, internship, (it was 2009 and the workforce was miserable) to getting into a new career path soon after I graduated, networking was essential. Then when I finally got into a job and company I loved in sales, networking was everything. It was my job to get new clients, rebuild past relationships, and regain business we may have lost to competitors.
While blogging, I realized networking was going to be how I not only grew my business, but built a group of supportive like minded individuals to lean on. It’s an isolating career or hobby so a network is key. It’s part of the reason why I founded The Blog Societies with fellow blogger, Poor Little It Girl. We wanted to build a network of like minded bloggers to create a community and so much more. Having this network and a group of like minded people I can lean on for advice or support has made this unique and sometimes challenging career much more enjoyable.
Some of the things I learned along the way have crossed over from career, to jobs to hobbies and even to helping to maintain friendships. Here’s my 7 go to tips for better networking. Whether you want to build a network for business, create a supportive community within your industry or just build on your current relationships. Here’s how to do it.
7 WAYS TO BUILD A NETWORK
1. Get Off The Couch
This really kick starts the entire process. If you’re not getting out there and getting face time with your peers, networking won’t happen. Whether you join a group, or find local events, or just sit at a bar and say hello to people, your couch will not curate a network for you. If you’ve moved to a new city or are looking to find like minded people in an industry you’re looking to get into, find Meet Ups, events, or membership networks that will get you out there in front of the right people.
2. Don’t Try To Meet Everyone At Once
Now that you’ve gotten off the couch and are at an event, don’t go crazy meeting each person in the room! Networking takes time and if you’re already overwhelmed by the idea of saying hello to everyone, you may never get off the couch ever again. When heading to an event, just try to find 2-3 people to make a connection with. It not only makes it more manageable, but it also is a good segway into tip 3, quality over quantity.
3. Quality Over Quantity
You don’t need to know a zillion people. Sure it helps to know EVERYONE, but if you know absolutely everyone I highly doubt you have a quality relationship with any of those people. And what makes networking most important and effective is what you get out of it all. Having quality relationships with fewer people is going to get you farther in the end. Also, it’s more enjoyable. You get to really know these people and when you may be down on your luck with a job, they’ll likely be more inclined to stick their neck out for you.
4. Stay Organized & Maintain A List
As a sales person, maintaining a customer list was something I managed every single day. Whether you keep a regular old Excel spreadsheet or use a CRM (customer relationship management software) having a list and keeping it updated is crucial. I just recently went through my big list and realized I’ve neglected it this past year. This now means my list is no longer healthy. A network list is only beneficial if it’s a healthy list. That means, updated contacts, names, emails and addresses. You can also record when you last reached out to someone or met up with them to connect so that you can see when you should follow up.
5. Follow Up The Right Way
Since you’ve got your great list now, follow up with these people the right way. If you met them at an event, shoot them an email afterwards saying it was great to meet them. It opens up the door for the next conversation and makes seeing them at another event that much easier. There’s nothing worse than getting a blind email from someone wanting to meet up to pick their brain over coffee. When you meet them at an event, follow up the right way, they’re more likely to say yes to that coffee date.
Also if you aren’t sure if that person is really a direct connection, don’t write them off just yet. You never know who may lead to what, and who knows who. Always follow up and be gracious. Thank them for taking the time to chat with you as you never know where things may lead.
If you want to be a great networker, you have to have maintenance. Maintenance in your list, and maintenance in staying connected. Plan to make time with the handful of people you’re trying to network with. Spend 15 minutes a week, or a half hour a month (this is definitely dependent on your job) reaching out to people on your list, researching events and so on. If you don’t maintain these aspects of networking you’ll begin to lose touch with people, their positions and roles may change and your contact will no longer be where you thought they were.
It’s also a great idea to take time each month, maybe twice a month, to schedule coffee with a contact or two. Emailing is one thing, but staying on people’s radar through in person relationships is always more beneficial.
7. Be Genuine And Add Value
And in the end, it all comes down to being a genuine person. You will always get farther with being true to who you are and genuinely caring about other people when it comes to networking. Walking into an event and just spitting out your sales pitch won’t get you very far. Connect with people on a real level and find commonalities like hobbies or different likes! This not only makes your connection more genuine, but makes those follow up emails that much easier too when you have found common ground.
Lastly, keeping in mind to add value to your network is key. Being genuine is essential, but having a mutually beneficial relationship with people in your contact is just as important. If you reach out just to ask for help, what will they want to do for you if you’ve done nothing in return? Add value through making the effort to share information, make introductions and assist when you can. These contacts will be even more inclined to help you knowing that you helped them at some point along the road.
Photos by JNelly at Upbeet, another restaurant I can’t stop going to!