You may hear it a lot and you are going to hear it again. Networking with your peers is the most effective way to advance anything in your career. With the advent of social media tools that prove that connecting is important the impact of networking is again reinforced.
With AU2013 right around the corner, this is a good time to brush up on your networking skills. If you are going to AU – you will see it in action when thousands of tech heads join together. If you are not attending, then you need to plan for it in your location by attending some events and going online.
I am going to focus on one area of networking that many have not discussed. There are websites and blogs and books and so much more on how and why you should be networking with peers and beyond. The list of reasons it is valued is long and can energize a new career, job or position. They provide ideas on starting expanding and working your network. They give pointers on what to say and how to stay connected. You need to read those and get to it.
Remember when you started networking? It may have been months, years or even decades ago. Do you recall what you felt like when you were trying to make inroads and connect with people? Do you remember the cold shoulders and interesting looks you may have gotten during introductions or second meetings? Networking can be daunting for some and overwhelming for others. Some take to it naturally and others have to strain to do it. Networking can be “work”.
I want to discuss inviting others into your network. I want you to focus on making it easier for others to connect. You need to expand your circles so that newcomers can get in. You need to help others start relationships with you and others.
Here are some practical tips for helping others to network.
Widen out your circle. We often find ourselves talking in little circles at events. Others walk up and stand just outside the circle and listen in. When that happens, step back and widen the circle a bit so that they can step in. Just this little gesture can make people feel at ease and included.
Introduce yourself to someone for the purpose of expanding their network – not yours. Go over to someone at an event that appears to not be connected and just introduce yourself. Tell them a little about yourself and ask them what they do. Have a casual chat that helps put them at ease. Exchange business cards (you do always have business cards – right?) and make a note of where you met them on the back so that you remember. Jot down some info that will remind you about them later. Try to discuss something unique with them so that they have info to hang on your name to remember you.
Introduce them to others. If they are new to the event, take them around and introduce them to others. I recall at one event that I saw a person sitting alone, surrounded by others that were already connected. They sat by themselves and seemed to not know where to start. I went over and introduced myself and asked if they knew anyone else at the event. They said not, and then I spent the next 10 minutes introducing them to others that I knew, including the “star” of the event. They felt connected and started interacting. Eventually that person became connected to many more than those I introduced them to. They just needed a little nudge and the ball started rolling.
When you attend an event, eat lunch with someone you do not know. Don’t go to the table where all your buddies and coworkers are sitting. Go to another table and ask if you can join. Offer introductions and make conversation with the focus on helping them connect to you. I typically will go to a table that has about 3-4 people at it that are not talking. They are usually around the fringes of the venue and are populated with those that are attending alone. I make conversation and encourage them to talk to each other. I pull out a business card and ask others to do the same. Soon these strangers and connecting and exchanging cards. I hope that they connect again after the event.
Reconnect with someone that you met so that they feel connected to you. After the event, go back and reconnect to one of the people that you are helping to expand their network. You should have their card or info on email/phone. Give them a call or email and check in. “Hey, just connecting up again. We met at the AUGI meeting and talked about CAD archiving. I know someone that just tackled the issues you discussed. I can ask them if they might like to chat. Let me know. And thanks for talking with me. I just wanted to stay connected. Let me know if I can help with anything. Take care… “ You get the idea. Nothing long winded, just a short note. If they reply back, connect them to another person. Think about what they may need. How can you expand their network and include them in your conversations.
By helping others first, your network will expand to include them and others. Paying it forward, you never know what might come of it.