I just LOVE networking! How about you?
There’s no doubt that networking, meeting new people, and being exposed to new ideas are great ways to find inspiration, expand your own thinking, and develop yourself.
But not everyone loves networking, do they…some people thrive on it, but for plenty of us, the mere idea of networking makes them shudder.
Not only do I love it, but also I love to help connect others and add value to their networks too.
If you’ve had much to do with me, there’s a fair chance I’ve said to you at some point: ‘I must introduce you to…(insert name here)…’
So what are some things YOU can do to leverage the amazing power of networking, to expand your own horizons and broaden your mind? Especially if you are one of the many people who would rather stick pins in their eyes than get networking…?
Here are some of my networking tips and strategies that anyone can implement to help them expand their networks and connections, and get the most out of their networking activities – no matter how comfortable (or uncomfortable) you might feel about the idea about putting yourself out there…
1. Be curious about people. Most people like to talk about themselves, given half a chance…it’s just human nature. And most people have a really interesting story to tell, if you just scratch the surface.
So whenever you get the opportunity, ask the people you meet with – whether intentionally or because circumstances have thrown you together – to tell you a bit about themselves, what they do, and why they do it.
2. Attend networking events. You only have to get on a few mailing lists for your industry, sector, or area of interest to find networking events – paid and free of charge. If you are a bit on the shy side, maybe try online events, to allow you to connect with people from your comfort zone at home or in the office.
3. Ask friends and colleagues to connect you to people they know. Nothing beats a warm lead or referral when networking, and those who already know you can be great ambassadors to connect you with like-minded others.
4. Make the most out of platforms like LinkedIn. If you use social media anyway, and follow things that interest you, why not reach out to others who are liking and commenting on the same posts or active in the same groups as you are.
5. Take advantage of networking opportunities provided by your workplace or the groups or associations that you belong to. Conferences, training sessions, expos, launches, celebrations – these are all places where I have met people who have set me on new and different paths.
6. Do a 50 Coffees challenge – I particularly love this one. Set yourself a target to have 50 1:1 coffee catch ups (zoom or otherwise) with 50 different people. This is a fun way to ‘gamify’ networking…and your networking partners will generally find it a fun and engaging thing to do too. It’s a great way to connect with people you don’t know so well or to reconnect with people you haven’t seen for a while.
7. But what to do to calm the nerves if you just don’t love putting yourself out there? A mentor of mine once told me to eat a banana before a job interview, because apparently bananas contain potassium and potassium helps calm nerves…I don’t know if it’s true, but some 30+ years later, I still eat a banana if I’m feeling a bit anxious about going into a meeting or a presentation. Rescue remedy does the same thing (but that could be the 27% alcohol it contains too!)
I am a big believer that everything we do opens up new possibilities – possibilities that may seem small or even unnoticeable at the time – but which will turn into new opportunities and directions down the track if we just let them (and maybe sooner than you think!)
So if you are feeling slightly squeamish about the prospect of walking into a room of strangers for the first time, just think of the awesome future opportunities it holds for you in there, eat that banana, and go for it!
I hope that has given you some ideas that you can implement to help grow your connections and networking.