Networking. Some love it, some fear it, most shy away from it. If you had asked me a year ago if I was a good networker, I would have categorically answered no. It’s funny how life prepares you for what you need. During my last year in DC, I found myself without a relationship, without an ‘available’ social network, and a bit alone and lonely. I had plenty of friends, but in true DC fashion, they never had time to get together. So, if you’re single and no longer 20, you are abandoned in that city. I decided to work hard to change that. I discovered the website MeetUp, where you can find like minded people doing things you enjoy doing. It took me 6 months to garner the will to go, but once I did, I was rewarded. I made some new friends, had a busy social calendar, and frankly, had found the social network that had eluded me the past 14 years in DC.
So there I was, busy meeting new people, having new experiences, and one day I realized that I was, indeed, a pretty good networker! Hmmm. Something new to ponder about myself. When the day came that I made my decision to leave DC, this realization was a Godsend. I knew that upon arrival in Seattle, while I had many good friends, I would need to put my networking in high gear. I had to meet new friends, I had to rebuild my career, I had to rebuild my life. So network I did!
Thinking about that this morning, I thought I would share some of the things I’ve found successful.
1. Go to any activity that interests you. You will meet like minded people, and have a good time.
2. You never know who you meet and how they might be beneficial in your life. Even the most obscure person who seems completely unrelated to your life or career can make a difference. They might know someone else who is.
3. Networking is all about relationships. We like to be with and help people we like. Be nice to everyone. Don’t make assumptions about people or put them in a box.
4. Help others. I’ve come across a number of people in search of new careers. I’ve come across a young woman who asked me to be her mentor. These were purely chance meetings. But I accepted the task, flattered that they saw something in me that inspired them. Pay it forward. Build good karma.
5. Build your LinkedIn network. Connect to everyone you possibly can. Keep it updated with news and accomplishments. Let the world see what you’re up to.
6. Look for events that you can connect to. I am in the learning and development field, so I’m busy connecting with professional organizations. I’ll volunteer, offer to be a presenter, get involved.
7. Keep business cards of people you meet. Make a note on them where you met them. Avoid that feeling of looking at a name on a card and not having a clue where you met them!
8. Send a brief ‘nice to meet you’ email the next day.
9. Invite people to coffee. You’ll be surprised how many are willing to do so.
10. Finally. Put yourself out there. Be friendly. Speak to anyone without being annoying.
Networking is a lot of work and takes a lot of time, but it WILL pay off. Go ahead and try it. Best of luck!