Hey everyone, pull up a chair.
In fact, fill out a nametag, introduce yourself to the person sitting next to you, grab a drink, and tell us what you do. This article is about one of the single most important skills you can learn in life: Networking.
Maybe you’re thinking, hey, I network every single day on Facebook and Twitter.
And, you’d only be half right. Yes, you might be social networking, but just because you have a few hundred friends on Facebook doesn’t mean you’re truly connected to them. In fact…
Because it’s so easy to stay in touch electronically, meeting people in real life does two things:
1) It provides a much stronger connection when you do meet in person
2) It sets you apart from everyone else that does not make the effort
Granted, I’m not breaking any new ground here. But sometimes we all need a little reminder.
You know when you run into someone quickly, and you both say “Hey we should get together some time?” Don’t just let the opportunity slip by… make a significant effort to do that.
It’s too easy to use social networking as a crutch and just send them a Tweet or an email that says “great running into you.”
Use these tools to truly connect with people on a different level. So pull out your Android right that second to send yourself an email reminder to connect with them. Bring up your Google calendar to find an open date. Skip over to Yelp to find a coffee shop you’ve never tried. And put that shiny iPhone to good use and call them to get together. You won’t regret it.
Four Valuable Networking Tips:
1) Keep track of your contacts
As a data geek I started a Google Docs spreadsheet to keep track of certain networking connections. Not my best friends of course, who are in my phone or email, but the ones that start out as loose ties. In other words, that person you met at a conference, the new business connection, or a friend of a friend.
Before you toss that business card, take 1 minute to simply jot down their name, title, email, and where you met them. This can also be done on LinkedIn’s “Notes” feature, certain apps, Evernote, or whatever system works for you.
2) Make the effort to attend 1 event per week
For an extrovert, one event per week might not even sound like much. For an introvert, it might sound like torture. But here’s the thing, it doesn’t always have to be around business. Start with hobbies you love doing, and pick industry events that you actually like going to. Maybe it’s a dynamic speaker or a new class or a meetup group. Force yourself to skip this week’s episode of Game of Thrones, and put yourself out there.
I’ll admit that it’s a lot easier for people to connect in a place like New York City… there is no shortage of after-work cocktails, weekend brunches, and countless events, all just a short subway trip or cab ride away. But wherever you live, do what works for you… it could be baseball in Boston, church in Chattanooga, or snowboarding at Snowbird.
3) Don’t expect the world
I go into every networking event with 2 simple goals. If I can learn ONE thing that I can use in my job or in my life, or if I can meet just ONE person that I have something in common with, then it has been a success.
4) Keep an eye out for super connectors
As you make connections and build up your network, you’ll start to notice a few “super connectors” are responsible for a larger share of new introductions. These people seem to give you an exponential amount of key contacts just by being around them, so you should make an extra effort to stay in touch with them and find yourself at events they attend.