For many, networking has become a dreaded word. It’s associated with going to events, shaking hands with people you don’t know, trying to be “on”, and feeling the pressure to come back to work or home with some big result. Granted, some people love to do this. But for a lot of us, this kind of networking sounds absolutely exhausting.
‘Real’ networking-what we should all be doing-is not focusing on the one-time event or the conference where we have to work the room. Networking is about meeting people while doing whatever it is that you do, staying in touch and finding ways to be of help to the other person. It’s about being friendly and helpful, and connecting the dots between people you know. It’s about paying it forward and showing people you were listening, no matter how long ago it may have been.
Most importantly, networking is done with the people who already run in the same circles as you; be that work (colleagues, business partners, customers and clients), neighbors, old college friends, little league parents, and even your dentist. You don’t need to create new circles. If you nurture the one you already have, new connections and opportunities will naturally come your way.
One of my business partners is quite gifted at networking. He runs a very successful company and 100% of his clients come directly from referrals. As CEO, he oversees the company’s business operations, yet he spends 25% – 30% of his workweek having coffee and lunch with people in his business network and people who are referred to him. Then, every Saturday morning he wakes up and spends a couple hours thinking of who he should connect those people to and sends thoughtful email introductions to all of those people. The result of this strategy is that his contacts value him as a builder of their businesses and are always looking to return the favor. His pipeline of business never slows down and when he needs a favor or calls on someone for advice, people always take his call.
To do this well and stay organized, it’s helpful to have a system for remembering details about the people you know. Some people find it easiest to connect with everyone they know on LinkedIn and use features likes Notes, Reminders and Tags to store details and create reminders for follow-up. Others use their Outlook or Google tools, or apps like Evernote and Humin, which easily store notes, pictures, documents, and have a variety of other features. It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as it works for you.
I love hearing about new tools and how you’ve taken the “work” out of Networking. Let me know what works for you and any tips you’d like to share.
Julia is a Career Strategist and Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach based in the Bay Area. She helps career-focused professionals showcase their unique abilities and talents in order to amplify their presence in their chosen fields and when re-entering the job market. Julia uses her extensive leadership experience in executive management, business development, team building and recruiting to help her clients have the career they always wanted. Learn more about Julia at www.JuliaHolian.com, www.LinkedIn.com/in/JuliaHolian, https://Twitter.com/JuliaHolian (@JuliaHolian) and www.Facebook.com/JuliaHolian.