The Ins and Outs of Networking - Part 2
In The Ins and Outs of Networking - Part 1, I addressed why you should consider doing this key business activity and shared some steps on how to go about it. Specifically:
Know your intent
Determine your introduction
Plan to give before you receive
Have a plan and work it, and
I promised in Part 2 to share some ideas on where to network as you plan your networking strategy, so here goes.
Industry organizations are usually the first place people think of going to meet other professionals and they are a good place to start. These organizations hold meetings and conferences that allow you to meet others in your profession. I have found them to be the perfect place to meet people I can partner with on projects, or those who work in companies I’d like to learn more about. When possible, before you go to an event, do research on who is attending and focus your time on trying to meet those individuals.
If you are a member of the organization, joining a committee gives you visibility and ensures that you will get to know a core group of people quite well.
Business exchange or trusted advisor groups are becoming popular. These groups are membership based, and usually hold weekly or monthly meetings that follow a structured agenda. Most have attendance requirements and an expectation that you make referrals and/or introductions to other members. What is unique about them is that there is only going to be one or two individuals in the group who do exactly what you do. So you won’t be competing with five other employment attorneys, for example, for referrals and introductions.
Because of the structure of these groups you will find a good cross-section of companies so your network will expand tremendously. Do a search for “trusted advisor network your city” to see what organizations are in your area.
Outside activities and volunteering is a different way to meet a variety of individuals that you might not normally come in contact with. Do you belong to a gym or practice yoga? Volunteer at your child’s school? Attend religious services? These are all places to make connections and form relationships. I have met people at the gym and over time, have been able to refer business their way.
When it comes to volunteering, there is nothing better than giving your time to an organization or cause you are passionate about. If you are consistent in your participation you are sure to meet others who may eventually open doors for you.
I briefly lived in Cincinnati and didn’t know anyone outside of work, so I volunteered for the Cincinnati Ballet Gala Committee. I met a woman whome I would have never met otherwise, and she helped me find my next job.
Attending events sponsored by groups outside your industry can put you front of prospects and referral sources rather than competitors. While you can meet amazing people through industry organizations, do you really want to always spend time with people who do the same thing as you? Branch out and go for diversity. Look for organizations where your ideal client might frequent and build relationships there.
LinkedIn as you know is the business connection site. It’s the first place most professionals use to “research” someone they have met or been referred to. It can be a fantastic tool to make connections and build relationships if you choose to work it. The more active you are with posting relevant content and commenting on what other’s post, the larger a group of connections you can build. When you reach out to connect with someone you don’t know, be sure to personalize the message so they know how and why you would like them in your network.
Alumni Groups are becoming robust networking avenues. Many universities have active groups in major cities around the world. While much or their programing focuses on creating opportunities to continue to learn, they are also building in time to meet and talk with other attendees and sometimes even host events specifically for networking.
I recently started attending some of the events from both my undergrad and graduate universities and I’m finding them a great way to meet people I would have never otherwise crossed paths with.
So this is my list. Do you have other places or activities that you’ve had success with? I’d love to hear about them.