“Opportunities? They are all around us. There is power lying latent everywhere waiting for the observant eye to discover it.” – (Orison Swett Marden)
Who’s in your network? No, really, what connections do you have to facilitate continued personal and professional growth?
Most people hear the term ‘Networking’ and immediately think of a stuffy, formal business event. My view of networking allows you almost unlimited possibilities if you open your eyes and ears to the people and possibilities around you. Networking opportunities are available in multiple forms, we must be open and ready for them.
Networking can provide a springboard to enhance goals, make contacts and potential employment. People you meet provide a chance for you to network and share your story. They may not be the direct person to change your world but can help introduce you to a friend, colleague or family member who may be able to help you Walk into the Future.
One of my mentor’s always says, “You’re networking even when you don’t know it”. Strive to make a good impression on everyone you meet since this can be a critical component on how much or if they are willing to help.
Make a list of professional contacts, professors, mentors and friends who may be able to help with your networking goals. Ask them out for coffee or lunch to discuss your situation and seek their guidance. Networking in this way allows you to maximize your visibility and viability to others.
Networking can be done face to face or via technology. The time you spend in the gym, at a coffee shop, or a formal networking event is a prime time for you to branch out and communicate with others. My preferred on-line networking method is to utilize LinkedIn. This platform allows you to ‘target’ search based on your desired outcomes. You can search for contacts by name, by organization and by location. There are other filters available, so find the best filter combination for your needs.
When working with students towards their employment goals, I always show them how to search for LinkedIn contacts at their preferred organization (Examples: Google, General Motors, Proctor and Gamble). We discuss the best way to introduce themselves to contacts and how to ask for the order (what do they want). Creating an introduction script makes this portion easier (who are you, what are your credentials and what you want to discuss with the contact). Remember, networking is more than what you can get from someone; convey how this interaction can benefit you both.
Local Rotary Clubs, Chamber of Commerce and other professional organizations provide avenues to network face to face. Leverage the ability to meet and speak with locals in these networking rich environments.
Don’t forget to ‘listen’ to what others have to say. Networking is not just you talking; allow other attendees to provide you with additional content to keep the conversations moving. Again, an introduction script may enhance your ability to weave into and out of conversations. Request business cards or other contact information to follow-up (thank you, informational interviews, mentoring) with individuals who may be able to enhance your current situation. Remember to be respectful of others time but always look to ask for what you need from people in a networking environment.
Practice makes perfect and the process of networking becomes easier the more you get out there–make it happen.
What other networking techniques have you used? How can networking help you advance in your field?