Regardless of your industry or job title, networking is something everyone needs to do. The problem a lot of people have is they view networking as something they have to do on top of their everyday work. When you’re already working 10 or more hours a day at your job, it can seem impossible to fit in time to network, especially if it entails going out after a long day at work.
So let’s look at how you can develop a networking strategy that fits into your schedule.
JOIN A GROUP (OR TWO)
Joining groups is an important part of networking. Professional groups allow you to meet other people who work in your industry or who are apart of your community. The key is not to join so many groups that you feel overwhelmed by your participation and end up dropping out all together.
If you are a young professional or business owner still in the early stages of establishing your business, we recommend only joining a couple of groups. These groups can be formal organizations, such as the Pasadena Business Association which Raving Software is a member of, or informal, such as those available on Meetup.
Formal organizations, such as business associations, will have people who are and are not in your industry. The variety of members is a benefit to you. Your business doesn’t operate inside a bubble, it’s a part of the community by default. By participating in local business associations, you’ll have access to helpful resources and other business owners in your community. You’ll be able to apply this knowledge to your business strategies wile forming relationships with other business people that could lead to a mutually beneficial partnership in the future.
Formal and informal groups can be either specific to your industry or have a broad focus. Our advice is to pick one of each when you start networking. This way, you’ll be exposed to opportunities specific to your field but also those that may have an indirect benefit.
Note: Formal and informal groups can have registration fees. You don’t want to overextend your budget, which is another reason to only join a couple of groups at a time.
Once you’ve picked a couple of groups to join, you need to commit to them.
BE AN ACTIVE PARTICIPANT
For most groups, being an active participant means attending events held by your organization. Events can be dinners or lunches, speakers, trade shows, parades, or volunteer days.
Some organizations will have events every week while others will only have events once a month. You need to go to as many events as possible. Decide at the beginning of each month which events you will attend and make an honest effort to go to them. You can’t make connections within the business community unless you actually meet and talk to other business owners. Plus if you meet people you like or find interesting, going to these events won’t seem so much like a chore. They may even become a welcome addition to your week.
Once you become comfortable going to events, start looking into ways you can be more involved. Maybe there’s a leadership role within the organization that you’d like to hold or maybe you have an idea for event that you’d like to plan or lead. Talk to whoever is in charge and see how you can grow your role in the organization.
The purpose of networking is to meet people and develop a relationship that can be beneficial to both parties. To do so, you need to be places where you can meet people. Having met someone face-to-face can make it easier to suggest a partnership as opposed to cold calling, or emailing, someone you’ve never met.
This isn’t, of course, to say that technology doesn’t play a role in networking. In fact, emails and other digital means can aid in strengthening your network relationships. However, you shouldn’t rely on digital methods alone. Being a visible and active member of a group is important to showing that you are part of a community and someone who is open to working with others.
Networking is something you’ll need to do at some point in your career. For it to be successful and not a waste of your time, you need to develop a strategy. Start out by researching different professional organizations and groups in your area. Pick one or two organizations to join, attend meetings regularly, and become an active member by participating in events or taking on leadership positions. Throughout your time with a group, you should be introducing yourself to people and building relationships with other members.
Networking is supposed to benefit you. If it’s not, then you need to adjust your strategy by changing how you interact with others or by finding an organization that better fits you and your goals.
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