When you hear the word NETWORKING you probably have a bunch of weird, mostly negative images in your brain. Painful events where people insistently give you their card. Conversations where they are constantly looking over your shoulder for a more important person to talk to. That sales guy you can’t get to stop contacting you.
That is networking done wrong.
Let me help you to build a real world network without being “that guy”.
Most of my life I considered myself an introvert. I had a close circle of friends I was able to talk and laugh with, but put me in a room full of strangers and I was standing in the corner wondering how parties were even supposed to work. After a few decades I learned you could learn how to start conversations and connect with people. So parties and social things are less painful now.
It wasn’t until a couple of years ago I started working on my personal network. I read a book called Never Eat Alone and it made networking make sense to me. One of the biggest things I took away from that book was how important it was to have a personal network.
What Is Networking Really?
Networking is a businessy word meaning the people you have connections to. Having a connection means you can contact them when you needed something. There are a variety of needs someone in your network would be willing to assist you with, but there are two main ones.
They can answer a quick question on an area of expertise. Your friend who knows everything about cars? She’s willing to answer a quick question about that weird sound your engine is making. Notice I said quick. It is too much to ask a connection to come fix your car. You also can’t expect a connection to give you for free what they are paid to do.
They can introduce you to someone you want to meet. Conversely you know them well enough to be willing to introduce them to someone else in your network. You aren’t vouching for them, but you know them well enough you’d tell another connection about them.
A step up from a connection you’d give an introduction to, is someone you’d refer someone to. This may mean you’ve used their service and would recommend it, or you’ve talked to them enough about it you’d stake a little of your rep on them.
A network is a valuable commodity
We all know those people who seem to know everyone. The business person who seems to know everyone in the neighborhood by name. That pastor who when you mention you need some work done can tell you six people who do that kind of work. The teacher who knows all kinds of people in the community who can provide the help you need.
These people have large personal networks, and that makes them invaluable.
How To Build Your Network
Building your network can make you the go-to person in your field. It’s not that hard and you can actually have fun doing it.
Grow Who You Know
You already have a network. You’ve got friends of one sort or another. You’ve got family. You are part of organizations like churches, clubs, and alumni groups.
The easiest way to add people to your network is ask the people you already know. If you have a goal you are trying to accomplish, ask those around you if they know anyone that can help you with that goal. Have dinners or parties with people you know and ask them to bring someone you ought to meet.
Join New Groups
You introverts are cringing right now and I get that. Going to things with strangers is tough. A long time ago I learned something from Tony Robbins. When he had to do something he didn’t want to do he’d ask himself, “How can I do this and enjoy the process?” The example he gave was having to make a bunch of phone calls. He asked that question and thought, “Hey I can make the calls from my hot tub. Then not only will I be relaxing in the hot tub, but I’ll have a conversation starter on the calls.”
When you go looking for groups consider joining new groups related to the things you love. Here’s some examples:
- Meet-ups about your hobbies or passions.
- Service organizations like the Kawanas, Masons or Lions clubs.
- Church groups
- Political parties
You can also join groups that serve a double purpose not only do they let you meet new people, but they teach you something:
- Toastmasters, to learn public speaking and leadership.
- A dance class
- Yoga or exercise class.
How To Add Someone To Your Network
Make A Friend
I like to tell my proteges when they are afraid of meeting strangers that they aren’t going to network, they are going to make new friends. In the end your connections should be friends, or at least acquaintances.
Some quick tips on making someone you meet into a friend.
- Make sure you learn their name and use it.
- Listen. Let them talk and they will think you are the greatest conversationalist ever.
You don’t meet people just have a conversation. You meet them to connect. Connections are built over time. This means follow-up. So once you’ve made a basic connection, ask for contact information so you can stay connected.
This is especially important if you have promised them something or they have promised you something.
It is easy to focus on what people can do for you but the most important thing you can do is to be useful to the other person. What can you do for them?
Find out how you can help them. Who can you connect them to? Can you do something that will help them? Do you know something that will make their work easier?
Offer to help them and they will want to help you when you need it.
Free Contact Follow-Up Template
Is your memory as bad as mine? When I make a new connection I have to write it down somewhere. I’d like to give you a sample of the information I create so I can remember and make sure I follow up. If you’d like that free resource fill out the form below and I’ll email it to you.
Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash