As humans, we’re social animals. That extends to our business lives, as well. Careers have always been about connections. Great business deals happen because individuals connect. But how do we get there?
You hear it all the time and you know it’s important, but it can be hard to find the right niche for meeting and networking with others. However, in a day and age where we can connect online and in person with anyone, the possibilities are endless.
Networking is probably one of those parts of building a career that you consider to be one of life’s little necessities today. While some people love meeting new contacts, others need a great deal of training to get over the feeling that life seems to be one big popularity contest. Adding to your collection of online contacts that you can tap into for career advice or just to chat doesn’t have to be stressful. In fact, some of the best strategies to effectively grow your social network come just by practicing some basic common courtesies.
As you get ready to head out to your next big opportunity to expand your social circle and join in on new conversations, you can use these good and simple strategies as ways to bring more contacts into your world.
Identify Your Reasons for Networking
Your first step is to identify a few goals for why you really want to build new professional connections. Do you want to maintain contact with another student or professors that you knew from your university for future career opportunities? Or, are you feeling that perhaps you want to get a new position at that latest new Inc in your industry? Being aware of what you want helps you take the lead on connecting with the right people. Once you identify your reason for expanding your network, you can then add names to your list of who’s who that you want to connect with soon.
Take Your Online Contacts to a New Level
Sure you have amazing LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook connections, but the truth is, unless you meet with them in-person those connections mean nothing. One of the best ways to stand out in the chaotic online scene is to meet face-to-face.
Be Willing to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
Science shows that the majority of adults are shy. Simply being aware of this can really help you see that you can do your part to turn an awkward situation around. For instance, someone else may be hesitant to reach out and say hi, but they’ll be glad to talk if you make the first move to start a discussion about careers or other topics. Be willing to keep up your part of the conversation by asking questions that help them get talking. Then, use your Personal CRM tool to set up a time to reconnect with them on a point that you covered. Overcoming the natural tendency to be shy in social situations is hard and takes practice, so try to make that extra effort to reach out.
Attend Events Out of Your Circle
The only way to meet new people is to do new things. Expand your horizon by researching local happenings or events in the city that might add to your career connections.
Find a cause you’re passionate about, or one that aligns with your career in some way, and sign up to volunteer. This is a great way to meet people in an informal way and to make meaningful connections.
Surround Yourself With Successful Contacts
When you meet someone, you should always be looking to see what skills you can learn from them. Watch to see which students are going from your university into successful careers at your favorite Inc and turn it into a point to get to know them and learn everything you can. As a general rule, you should try to seek out opportunities to connect with others who are more successful than you. While it might be briefly awkward to spend time at business events where you are the low person on the totem pole, science shows that it helps you to rise up to the next step on the ladder.
Do Your Homework
Truth: it can be intimidating to talk to a stranger. Truth: It is a lot easier to talk to someone when you know you have something in common. Before you meet, email or tweet, do your research and see if there is some common thread you can use to start the conversation.
Create Goals for Contact Frequency
As a student of making friends, forgetfulness is a major problem that you need to work to overcome even if you don’t mean to overlook someone. You’ll find that it is all too easy to simply go home and forget that you need to reach out to that woman who gave you their business card, and this makes you seem forgetful. Alternatively, you are probably going to experience a bout of forgetfulness that causes you to email someone too often. Use your Personal CRM to set up reminders for when to reach out to a contact again. This way, you never have to act weird about not reaching out to someone that you cared to talk to again.
Give Sincere Compliments
Customer relation management involves making everyone that you come across aware that they are important to you, and you can use this same easy tip to help people within your industry feel special. Remember to give the individuals in a group center stage by looking for the things that make them feel important that you can highlight. You can do this by using your list on your Personal CRM to remind yourself of who’s who in your collection of names on social media or to see what they post. All you have to do is pull up their name to remind yourself of a few tidbits that they chose to share regarding their accomplishments.
Never Forget an Important Event
Another of the critical tips to being successful at remembering things is the importance of simply showing up. Whether you’ve been invited to a colleague’s birthday party or a major corporate product launch, showing up shows that you care. Use the calendar tool in your Personal CRM as a way to stay on track of those special dates. If you can’t show up to an event, then even a quick text or email acknowledging the special date works wonders for the development of your relationships.
Use Factoids to Build Closer Connections
You no longer have to be afraid to network with fellow students or a colleague when you use your Personal CRM app to pull up their name and a few factoids that they dropped the last time that you talked. What this does is give you something to say right away to capture their attention. In your online notes, you can even save the questions that you asked during your last meeting to nurture your relationship. You can use this same good strategy for customer relation management such as for a sales position to bring up real and useful information about the other person’s needs and goals. Being able to stay on top of who’s who is part of an important skill set that helps you stand out from the competition.
Practice In Comfortable Situations
Testing out your ability to use a tip on how to talk about professional topics is easier in a setting that allows you to take the lead without being afraid and does not require a big risk. You can book an appointment with a top mentor that lets you utilize their knowledge to your advantage to gain some informal training. You can also book tickets at a conference where you can stop and take note of how your small talk is delivered.
Use What You Learn to Your Advantage
During your practice meetings, stand a comfortable distance away to identify men and women that you already recognize before you walk up to say your greeting. As you speak, check to see that your greeting is short and then stop talking to see what feels right. Once the other people begin to talk, you can observe how they appreciate being listened and spoken to. Then, you can use the next information that comes up to hold a short conversation that gives you reason to reconnect later. For instance, being asked later to expand upon a point they made them feel good enough for them to remember you positively.
Provide Tangible Reminders of Your Relationship
Today, relationships grow and get better when you give each person in your social network a tactile reminder of your connection. Try sending someone a card or gift to commemorate a special occasion such as a job promotion. You can effectively do this with just a few swipes on your Personal CRM app on your mobile phone and you’ll find that your friends and colleagues appreciate your efforts at making them feel your genuine admiration. You can even register to keep track of the gifts that you send, along with when they were delivered so that you find out when your recipient got your gesture.
Turn Networking Into a Daily Activity
Gone are the days when you could get by with showing up to monthly events. With today’s fast-paced business world, you have to work hard and do better to maintain your contacts and remember what you heard during conversations.
Reach out to at least two contacts a day to ask them a simple question that generates a useful response. Don’t be afraid to ask them for tips that enable you to experience progress toward your goals or to share something that you heard about professional development out in the field.
Alternatively, you could share a quick post from social media that you know taps into their interests or job. You could also ask them to share your info with someone within their social circle to expand yours. Be willing to step out and join sites that enable you to develop new contacts.
Finding ways to connect with others during each stage of your relationship is as simple as pulling up their info on your phone. There are great free Personal CRM tools out there, like Circles. All you’ll have to do is check out their stats and start talking about real life topics that you know keep their interest and you will see that relationship grow.
Focus on Quality
Remember, quality over quantity. It doesn’t matter if you have a million connections — it only matters if they count. Be specific about who you connect with, and be picky when you reach out. Narrow it down to your dream team of connections, then work from there.
What are you waiting for? Who knows, maybe the old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” might just apply to you.
And, for a new and different way to network with people, consider downloading Circles, an app that captures the unique and special details of your friends, family or business associates and enables you to nurture those relationships through active engagement.