I’m too busy. I’m not outgoing enough. It’s a waste of time. I don’t know where to start.
Sound familiar? These are all common excuses we tell ourselves when trying to find a way out of networking. In reality, establishing a network is an essential part of our professional lives. And for those who are growing a book of business, it’s pretty much required. There are many benefits to networking like gaining new insights, exchanging best practice knowledge, and opening doors for new opportunities. It can also build confidence and lead to long-standing friendships.
Unfortunately, networking doesn’t come naturally to everyone. For some, the idea of starting a conversation with a stranger is far beyond their comfort zone. Here are four tips to keep in mind as you work on forming that next connection:
Think quality over quantity. One good connection trumps ten superficial ones. Contrary to what some believe, networking is not about handing out as many business cards as possible. It is about creating genuine relationships. Dunbar’s Number suggests that the brain can only maintain roughly 150 stable relationships at a time, so it’s important to figure out who matters most. Find people who you really connect with, and make time for them.
Stay in touch. Now more than ever, it’s easy to keep in touch with people. Social media is a great (and easy!) tool to stay in touch with colleagues, friends, and acquaintances. Reaching out via email or even a hand-written note are also good ways to keep conversation flowing. And if your busy schedule allows, coffee dates and dinners are excellent opportunities to catch up with those connections.
Find people who share your passion. That next great connection may not be at the conference you’re attending next month, but rather that guy who sits behind you in church. Or the gal in your weekly cycling class. Things you do outside of work are perfect opportunities to connect with people who have shared interests. So the next time you’re volunteering, playing golf, or whatever you enjoy doing in your spare time, consider sparking a conversation with who you’re with!
Don’t make it all about work. Talking about career moves and best practices are great, but don’t be afraid to go a little deeper. Be genuinely interested in others—ask about hobbies, events, and family when appropriate. Really get to know the person and focus on forming a sincere relationship. And of course, be willing to share yourself.
Networking may seem intimidating, but the right mindset and approach can make all the difference.