Frequently I talk to people that find very little redeeming about networking. They dislike attending cocktail parties and other types of networking events with a passion. What I also hear from these individuals are questions like “How do I get my name out there?” and “How can I be get known for something?” Will, I hate to break the news to you, but in order to get your name out there and be known for something, somebody has to know who you are and what you do. How do you put yourself in a position to be known — networking.
Networking is not only a skill it is a delicate art form. I would not ever say there is only one way to do it — that is completely false. And from that same perspective, I would also suggest that there are multiple ways to do it well. I want to highlight some ways to build and form a professional relationship that takes into consideration social media as well as face-to-face communication aspects.
So, here are a few networking tips to consider as you move forward developing new professional relationships.
1. Join networking, PD, professional organizations, and affinity groups. This is a great way to start exploring what is out there. Also, if you are new to an area or industry you can quickly get plugged in by joining groups. Don’t feel compelled to pay the high price of admission, try groups on LinkedIn, Meetup.com, Ning, Facebook that are free, but may have a small cost to attend certain events.
2. Reach Out Now that you have joined these groups on LinkedIn, Facebook, Ning, and Meetup.com, you now need to Reach Out and create engagement. Try to find individuals with common interests, maybe you work at the same organization in different branches, from the same geographic location, or went to the same college. In short find some reason to reach out — you are part of the same group and that may be your common interest.
3. People Enjoy Talking About Themselves The most important lesson I learned about networking came from my high school journalism class: People Enjoy Talking About Themselves and their work. If you really want to get to know someone ask them to coffee and let them know you want to learn about their work and how they got to where they are. People are surprisingly excited about the opportunity to share what they know with others.
4. Meet for Coffee Once you have found a few networking and professional development groups, and reached out to people, now you need to meet them in person. Some great advice I received from Yvette Alexander Slate Principle of Carried the Bag, on this very topic was Meet for Coffee and feel out the relationship. Don’t meet over food because meals are intimate and sometimes awkward. Use this opportunity to learn more about one another in a low risk, low pressure setting.
5. Connect with sociables Don’t be afraid to stay in contact after or in some cases before meeting. Connect on LinkedIn, Skype and maybe even Facebook depending on your comfort level. If you see an interesting link or blog post that you think they might find useful send it along. If you meet someone that they might find helpful, provide an introduction. Being well connected is not only about the people you know, but also about how you can serve as a resource person to those you know.
6. Follow up with a Thank You Card or Email Whether you Follow up with a Thank You Card or Email — be sure to follow up and thank the person for their time and willingness to sit down with you. People are glad to give their time, as long as they know it is valued. The note doesn’t have to be beautiful prose, consider: “Thanks so much for sitting with me for coffee. I enjoyed discussing how you ended up at Chase Bank. I’m looking forward to our next meeting (and if this is via LinkedIn) In the meantime, I’d like to add you to my professional LinkedIn network.” This note is even made simple because LinkedIn does some of the work for you. In any case, be sure to follow up leaving some sort of open invitation for a future meeting.
By no means is this an exhaustive list, but just a few pointers to get yourself started. What are you tricks of the trade when it comes to the Skill and Art of Networking? Feel free to share.