We all know that to succeed in business, one must have (and use) a network. We work hard to create a web of like-minded individuals that support us, defend us, and are there when we need a favor. Likewise, as we create and nurture these relationships, we need to be prepared to offer the same in return. Unfortunately, making contacts and turning business cards into a dependable rolodex of steadfast colleagues is easier said than done. For those that may struggle, here are some secrets from great networkers.
Leave the office. That’s right, out with you! You’ll never make lasting, meaningful connections with people if you stay behind your desk all day, every day, so get out! Whether you are most suited for conferences, luncheons, or charitable events (or all three), sign up, show up, and make a great first impression.
Look for kindred spirits. Many introverted individuals struggle with networking because it’s often thought of as moving through a room collecting as many business cards as possible. This is often unhealthy and unproductive for a more quiet, shy person so reframe your thinking about networking. Instead of having a goal of obtaining a fistful of new contacts, look for just one or two kindred spirits. Focus and connect with those people who “get” you and your work and you’ll look forward to maintaining that rapport for years to come.
Remember quality trumps quantity. It’s perfectly acceptable to be picky about your own personal and professional network. You may not be able to choose your family but you most definitely can hand-pick the people you want to be supported by and support in return. While you may be able to work a room and speak with many individuals who are eager to connect with you more later; take a moment to think about who they are, what they have to offer, and how you could work together in the future. If you’re struggling to come up with answers, it’s not a quality connection and will not serve you well.
Do not be afraid. Put yourself and your business out there! Be a bit vulnerable, honest, and forthright with who you are, what you do, and where you’re going in the future. Those who reject you wouldn’t have helped you anyway, even if you had made an initial contact. You will never be sorry for authenticity.
With a bit of reframing, courage, and positivity, creating a grand network isn’t quite as daunting as it once seemed. Despite so much of business becoming virtual, it appears as though the socialization that precedes creating a slew of supporters will remain a necessity for professionals indefinitely. The power of the network is here to stay.