Networking makes me uncomfortable. There, I’ve admitted it! It’s something people don’t expect of me because I’m a fairly outgoing person, and I regularly attend networking events. But that doesn’t make networking easy. In fact, when I’m at a networking event there’s usually a voice inside my head asking things like, “Should I go talk to that person or not?” or “Am I being too aggressive?” or even “Is this a complete waste of time?”
The truth is many people find attending networking events difficult, due to shyness, lack of confidence, or simply not knowing appropriate networking protocol.
But here’s some good news for all would-be successful networkers. There’s more than one way to build your professional network. It needn’t only be about walking into a room full of strangers and introducing yourself.
The Language Lab’s 5 Tips for Building Your Professional Network
-Three Degrees of Separation: As an article at CNN Money suggested,
professionally it’s not SIX degrees of separation that matter, it’s THREE. “Three degrees is the magic number because when you’re introduced to a second- or third-degree connection, at least one person personally knows the origin or target person. That’s how trust is preserved.” In other words – start by talking to people you already know: colleagues, family, friends.
-Choose Wisely: If you are going to go to events designed specifically for networking, choose an event that best suits your line of work or business. In other words, don’t just go to an event because you are invited.
-Tweet Smart: Twitter can be a very effective networking tool, one that does not require putting on your biggest smile and packing your business cards. Follow people you think you’d like to work with or for. Tweet smart, relevant content, and soon they may follow you – and eventually give you their business.
Link In: LinkedIn is the world’s preeminent social networking site targeted at professional business networking. According to the Wikipedia entry on LinkedIn, as of November 2011, LinkedIn had over 135 million registered users. Some of those 135 million people and companies are looking to do business with you – if they can find you. Make your LinkedIn profile a regularly updated, searchable online marketing tool, and join LinkedIn groups relevant to your industry. Build relationships with others in the group, and network by contacting people through LinkedIn’s internal messaging.
Volunteer Your Efforts: One of the most successful networkers I know has built many of his business relationships through volunteer work (sitting on boards, joining committees etc.) for organizations he admires. The people you may meet through volunteer and charitable work may well be the people who eventually employ your services, because they’ve already seen what kind of talents and skills you bring to the table.
Of course you can’t necessarily do all of the above, all of the time, and continue to run a business or work! But you can choose to focus on a specific networking tool, rather than simply assume that the only way to network is by gritting your teeth and walking into a roomful of strangers while mentally rehearsing your elevator pitch!
Do you have any networking success stories you’d like to share? Comment on the blog, or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.