Talk to people. Everywhere you go, strike up conversations; Starbucks, the grocery store, the pickup line at the elementary school, the bar, the club, anywhere will do. Daring to play at the next level is going to take next level effort and discomfort. Most conversations will come to naught, but a few will be a doorway to a larger world. “The right place at the right time” rarely manifests without a little coaxing. Quantity is fundamental, especially at the beginning. Like sales, networking is a numbers game. Having a balance of script and spontaneity will make talking to X number of unfamiliar faces flow easier. Countless pre-networkers knock the use of scripted responses to accomplish a personal goal. However, scripts are simply a tool to move you from where you are to where you want to be. Tools, amongst other things, are the factor that elevates man above beast, don’t be afraid to use them.
Make Business Friends. Somewhere betwixt acquaintance, personal friend, and colleague lay business friend. Hinging partly on personal similarity and partly on professional benefit, business friends are the kind of people you invite to a networking event, “do lunch” with, and introduce to another business friend when they have a need the other might meet. Business friendships play out over month and years, yielding benefits way down the road. They are the stuff that makes up the enigmatic term “Connections”.
Go to Things. Whatever kind of event piques your interest, go to it and talk to people with the proper shade of the networking mindset. Preferably, events that facilitates mingling and conversation. Barring mostly loud indoor concerts, everything is on the table. More people are homebodies today thanks to technology, decimating ranges of arenas from the restaurant industry to business networking. (Small Biz Daily) Getting out of the infernal triangle of Work-Errands-Home is a basic pillar of success in networking. People you should know are everywhere. Most places and events are as good as the next. Going to things you like is a wickedly palatable way to meet those people.
“Don’t take anything too seriously—not even your partying” As the tip from this article in the LA Times points out, setting hard expectations of meeting your next big client or employer will tease you into a letdown. Networking is a long-term game and everything you go to, a “kickback, barbecue, or whatever,” is the field of play. Success comes from the right mindset and attitude at the right volume of “things”.
Keep an ear out for interesting conversation. The selfsame article in the LA Times points out keeping an open ear can lead to meeting the right people. Jumping into an interesting conversation with the right talking points is the powerplay of “talking to people.” Being on the right page, AKA having a resume filled with or acumen on the subject matter, of the proper topic segues you into the inner circle.
Having a thing. Successful people have hobbies too, all kinds of hobbies. In fact, top players are known to be deeply devoted to their hobbies. Being involved in your Thing will connect you with the right people. To make the best of your chances, try everything that tickles your fancy and take note of the crowd. If the people are just the type you’re looking for, get involved. If not, move onto the next thing. Either way, doing something fun leads to connections.
Make the most of Connections you Already Have. You know people, stoke those relationships into a valuable asset. Strategically re-connecting with old connection is vastly easier than making new ones. The key ingredients are a plan to foster them and periodic follow up. Plan like this. Take the person out to lunch. Send them a thoughtful gift over the holidays. Attend a conference with them. Depending on your goals, escalate according and use the proper measure of effort investment. Follow up is tricky. Connecting several times a year should be sufficient. Also, having flexibility in the exact timing of the follow up makes working it in more feasible.
Make it Easy for Them to Contact you. The methods which connections may try to find you after meeting are as many as the sands on the shore, make it easy on them by having a multitude of ways. Start with a card, continue with a filled-out LinkedIn account, and finish with a presence on Google. Make memorable business card. Even if people lose it, they are likely to remember details, like your name, position, or company. A complete LinkedIn profile, with keywords related to you, your particulars, and a quality picture of you, will be easy to find. Lastly, make yourself easy to find on Google. When all else fails potential connections will google your name. Filling out the plethora of sites offering a professional profile creates a wide net to catch them. You are very likely to be the high on the first page of Google when they search for you.
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