Networking. Some people love it. Some people hate it. No matter what your sentiments, connecting with others in your field or area of expertise can often open doors. Sometimes it can even make dreams come true. Just like it did for me.
When I first got into writing, I hooked up with a successful, professional marketer on LinkedIn. Although I connected with him solely to learn how to best market myself to potential clients, he soon reached out to me and asked what type of writing I was interested in doing.
This resulted in a trial job offer, invaluable training on how to create persuasive content, and even some pay along the way. Certainly, if it weren’t for connecting with him, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today, earning a good living as a writer (even more than I earned working 9-5), which is a dream I’ve had since I was a kid.
We’ve all heard or experienced stories like this where networking was largely responsible for career-related success. So, how do you get the most from your networking experience so that you get the right doors to open for you?
Think Beyond Your Field
Had I just decided to network with writers when I first started out, I would have missed the opportunity to learn from and work with someone that taught me a great deal about honing my craft and making my business more marketable. So, think beyond your actual field and consider who you could network with that could help you increase your success in other ways.
For example, if you struggle with the sales aspect of your business, is there a particular person that could help you become a better salesperson? Or, if it is marketing that you find difficult, how about connecting with a professional marketer, like I did? Think beyond your field and delve into your problem areas, looking for partners that can help you solve some of your most bothersome issues.
Set a Networking Goal
Networking is one of those things that is easy to forget to do. Because you have so many other duties and obligations as a small business owner, connecting with other professionals is often the last thing you think of adding to your to-do list. However, since it can make a huge difference in your levels of success, setting a networking goal is a great way to continue to remind yourself how important this one task is.
You don’t have to set huge goals to grow your contacts quickly either. For example, you may decide to make just one connection, whether online or in person, per week or even every two weeks. Realistically, that isn’t too hard to do, yet at the end of the year, you now have an additional 26 to 52 people in your contact list. This provides you with a lot more potential opportunities than if you didn’t grow your list at all.
Don’t Just Join Groups and Organizations, Participate In Them
I’ve noticed that a lot of people join groups and organizations only to add them to their list of involvements, but never really participate in them. While having this association may look good to your clients or on your resume, this does nothing for you in regards to increasing your network. You have to actually be involved if you want to get the most out of them.
So, if you join a group on LinkedIn, for instance, read some of the discussions and comment on them. If you’re feeling ready and up to the task, you might even want to start some discussions of your own.
If it is a local group that you belong to or join, make it a point to attend some of the meetings or events. Sure, all of this takes time, but it can be time well spent when you make just the right connection that lands you that high-money job or connects you with the one person who can help get you where you want to go.
Networking Organizations to Consider
If you’re interested in growing your network, here are some places to start:
- Your Local Chamber of Commerce – You can’t beat local connections and the Chamber of Commerce is one way to make them. To find the one closest to you, just do a search via the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s online directory. Simply choose your state and it will give you all of the ones available, even providing the local one’s website so that you can easily make contact.
- Business Networking International (BNI) – This organization has locations all over the world, offering meetings, workshops, and tradeshows to help you expand your network and networking capabilities. The one caveat is that they only take one person per profession at each chapter. So, if that slot is already filled, you either have to join another location or request to start your own chapter.
- Professional Networking Meetups – You can use this site to find various networking meetups around the globe. It’s up to you whether you decide to join well-established groups with thousands of members or look for one with just a couple hundred people so that you can connect on a more personal level with all of its members.
You can also connect with me on LinkedIn if you’d like. Who knows? Maybe we can help each other succeed. Networking is networking and sometimes you have no idea where it will take you!
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