Early in our careers we are spoiled with so many opportunities to meet new professional contacts all the time. As we prepare to graduate from college, we're surrounded by peers with similar ambitions. We almost can't help but develop organic relationships with professors and students alike. Campus career fairs are regular occurrences and we all feel like hot commodities. Then after graduation, we are new to the workforce and rotation programs and new hire initiatives are plentiful. As we progress in our careers, job changes sometimes become less frequent, time is less plentiful as some of us pick up more family responsibilities and making professional connections suddenly becomes a more daunting task. As an introvert who had escaped the need to force said connections for years, my back was finally against the wall when I reached this stage of life. With limited time and exposure as a professional, if I wanted to make new connections, I had to get intentional about the dreaded N word....Networking.
I HATE the idea of putting on "business casual" clothes, showing up at an event labeled a "networking" event and trying to impress complete strangers with my elevator speech, convincing them that I'm worth keeping in contact with. Barf!
Because meeting valuable contacts is the ONLY way to succeed as an employee, business owner, or anyone who wants to make a decent living and build a brand, I had to re-frame how I viewed making connections. Below are the top tips that have worked for me on how to tackle the dreaded N word for people who hate networking.
Don't call it Networking!
Call it relationship building, synergizing, whatever you need to call it to feel excited about doing it. I personally think about it as an entire attitude of serving others and the following tips will help you understand why.
Why it's awesome – If you let go of pre-conceived ideas about how networking should happen, you don't have to block out your Thursday night for a happy hour. Connecting with others when you do it out of a desire to improve someone else's experience means you can connect at the grocery store, coffee shop, gym and all of the places you already frequent.
Reach out to contacts on a regular basis with information that could be useful to them
I have a hard time remembering to reach out to people. What I do now is actually set calendar reminders at points during the day when my schedule is open and my energy will likely be high to reach out to people and just pass on something that will improve their lives. That could look like anything from a listening ear, to and article, to information about an upcoming event.
Why it's awesome – The way that we build successful careers and businesses is to provide real value. Constantly putting yourself in the mindset to serve others is the fastest way to get familiar with your favorite methods for being a value providing machine. In addition to that there are some other cool benefits.
You'll get useful feedback on your ability to provide value
You build up Your Resource Library
You widen your own knowledge
Always be productizing your services...Define in detail how you add value
Productization is understanding exactly what you offer and what steps are required from the time of request to delivery. It means having a systematized way of delivering value.
Why It's Awesome - The more clarity you have around your productized services, the easier it will be to determine if and how you can help peers, employers, customers and anyone else you choose to serve. You'll also discover your niche and build an easy to explore portfolio for everyone you serve. You could take it a step further and create a web page or online profile that outlines your system used to deliver value for people to reference. The idea here is to develop a brand that serves you when it comes to both personal and professional relationships.
Listen more than you speak
Instead of connecting people thinking first of how to present yourself, look at every encounter as an opportunity to learn something new...an opportunity to understand the pain points of others or discover new niches.
Why It's Awesome - You'll likely discover how to improve your current offerings and you'll also be taking the easiest route to gaining fans. People Love people who listen to them! You'd be surprised how rare it is for people to experience another person being present in the moment with them. You get establish credibility and connection with minimal effort.
Employing the mindset and methods above should have you well on your way to establishing yourself in your community as a true thought leader and trusted resource.
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