In the first article in this series, we focused on 6 ways to make networking less horrible [link to article]. Now, let’s take a look at five easy ways you can build your network. These simple tips will help expand your professional (and maybe personal) circle, opening up new opportunities and connections.
- Put yourself in a position to have an excuse to connect with, or at least rub elbows with, the types of people you want to meet. How? Look for networking events, groups, meetups or any social gathering in your community, and find an opportunity to work or volunteer at them. Those events usually love the extra help, and it can put you in a slight “power” position to the people who attend. You also now have an excuse to reach out to these people via LinkedIn or email in a non-salesy way by inviting them or providing information to the networking event you’re volunteering for: “Hey Jen, I’m reaching out to executives in the area to invite them to our upcoming charity dinner at the Bayfront Hotel. It will be a great place to meet other executives and investors in your industry, and get your company’s name out to the local community…”
- Regularly attend social gatherings that interest you (locally and virtually), including those that have nothing to do with work, like intramural sports, workout classes, or other hobby meetups. Many times those are great places to meet people with whom you have something in common. Once a genuine relationship is built, they’re usually more inclined to refer you to people they know. I’ve done business with plenty of people I met at the gym, after yoga class, or playing intramural soccer.
- Building your network is not just about who you know; it’s about how you interact with who you know. Plenty of people “know” other great people, but I’ve found that the majority of people don’t maximize the real potential or value of who is in their network. A great way to start to solidify these relationships is to find ways to provide value to those in your network. For example, once you’ve had a chance to understand what someone does and what their objectives are, occasionally send them helpful resources you come across.
- Building on the previous point, adopt the mindset of a connector – someone who loves to help and introduce people purely because it will benefit both of them. This will help strengthen your network, and oftentimes the people you connected will return the favor in the future. Sometimes the only thing you may get in return is good karma points, and that’s ok too.
- Be a person of integrity. If you want to build a strong network, be the type of person that people want to connect with and refer others to. In addition to the must-haves like honesty and integrity, put some practice into strengthening your social skills and self-awareness. This doesn’t mean you have to be an extrovert or have some stellar “gift of gab,” it simply means being kind and social enough that people enjoy your company. Self-awareness is essential here, so you can observe how OTHERS interact with you, and not just how you think you are. If you think you’re being funny but people around you find it rude and offensive, you’ll want to invest in some self-awareness practices to recognize it and adjust the behavior accordingly. If you’re not sure where to start, check out my self-awareness and communication skills courses.
Just by incorporating these five simple tips, you’ll be on your way to expanding your professional network to one that is mutually rewarding and powerful. Don’t just do them once and stop, thinking you’re done. These are things to continually work into your To Do list, and the more you do them, the more satisfied you will become. And it’s a bonus when it results in more professional connections!
Stay tuned for the last article in this series, where I show you how to sustain this power network you’ve worked so hard to build.