Whether you've moved to a new city, just starting a new business or are at that point in your life where you are growing your business, it’s important to be part a community with lots of connections. Networking is an essential part of your success tool box for both personal and business evolution.
Networking isn't about instant gratification - it's about long-term success! It’s all about relationships, both business and personal. Those relationships need time to develop, and in order to develop them to the fullest, you need to know how to share information about yourself and your life. Sharing information must be comfortable for you, it isn’t about spewing out every detail concerning your hobbies, special interests or goals in life, it’s about taking the time to find the common ground between you and the people in your community. One of the easiest ways to build rapport and find common interests is to become a good listener. Ask open ended questions and then listen to the answers, often you will find the perfect opportunity to say “we have something in common.”
The definition of a community is “a group of individuals gathered together to achieve common goals.”
This definition can work for your social network as well as for your professional network. Common goals can be anything from a fundraiser, to raising children, to an election. Networking is a long-term process, with systematic progress that will lead to success.
Networking needs must be evaluated to determine what will work best for you and your company. Business owners that work out of a home base have added reasons to network. Their immediate network is an isolated one, and it is important for this group to participate in as many outside networks as is practical. Statistics show that isolation often deters success.
People who are part of large, multinational organizations are often “isolated” as well. Working in silos, it’s often found that though they are part of a large company, there is very little cross referencing and the networking that is done, is insular. For networking to be effective and solution based in cases like this, there is a huge need to bring in outside resources to build the rapport between silos. In order for multinational organizations to maximize their internal network, there must be a gathering and sharing of information that has previously been considered privileged. By dispelling the myth that “everyone knows what everyone knows” large companies can become more productive, build stronger, more cohesive teams and believe it or not, network and get more work accomplished.
One of the best ways to maximize your network is to arm yourself with relevant information that is directly related to the industry you belong to, the club where you are a member, the school your children go to, and even where you went on your last holiday. Breaking the ice, and making networking not only productive, but much easier, involves being comfortable initiating the conversation even with strangers. Networking with the people you know does not necessarily move you forward in the process. You need to move out of your redundant (familiar) network and on to one that is outside of your initial circle of influence.
How can you expand your network, build rapport and ultimately call the results of your networking a success? First, move away from your familiar network and enlarge your circle, get out and find new common interests. People like people who are like themselves, they buy from them, sell to them and they refer them.
Consider some of the ideas below when expanding your network.
- Considering taking a class. Take classes that have nothing to do with your business -- just for the fun of it. You can always tell the people you meet, when they ask, what type of business you're in.
- Start a group - either social or business. Looking to make more women friends? Start a women's group. Want to meet more singles? Start a singles group. Want to walk? Start a walking group, etc. etc. etc.
- Offer to teach what you love! Design a continuing education type of class. Contact your local colleges, parks & recreation, YMCA, library, non-profit organizations to determine their interest.
- Get out there and speak! Find groups you enjoy attending, or that your ideal client attends, and volunteer to be a speaker. If you are uncomfortable speaking consider joining Toast Masters, it’s a great group and will build your comfort level in front of an audience.
- Find the restaurant your ideal client visits. Form an alliance with the owner. Hold a draw once a month. Cross merchandise, carry their cards with you.
- Volunteer. Get involved with a local charity or not for profit organization.
- Contact your local Chamber of Commerce. They have great resources, and when you join they usually have a book of members that they'll send you. Don’t abuse that directory.
- Join national groups that are within your own industry. Great resources, plenty of common denominators and often posting jobs wanted and available. If there is a publication, offer to write relevant articles. Get involved, take a board position if time allows. Make your network work for you!
Donna Messer is a speaker, trainer and author. Founder of ConnectUs Communications Canada, the company designs, develops and delivers training programs around the world. Donna specializes in building relationship between companies, countries and individuals. The company philosophy uses the “RISE” principal – Build Rapport, Exchange Information, Offer Solutions - Ethically. For more information on systematic networking, workshops and keynote speeches – www.connectuscanada.com To connect directly with Donna – firstname.lastname@example.org