When I first started my business I networked like it was a 40 hr a week job for the first six months. I worked on client work nights and weekends so I could network during the week. This really propelled my business forward in my local community. But, I didn’t just walk around handing out business cards. Here are the five steps I took to get the most out of my networking time.
1) Even if you are short on time pick the events, groups or places you want to network ahead of time. Just like most things in life having a plan utilizes your time. I look at what is being offered in my area and choose what works with my schedule now that my business is much busier. Not all networking events are equal. As you #network you learn the ones that resonate the most for you. Everyone is different.
2) Try new groups or events but don’t feel like you have to keep going if it doesn’t feel like it is a fit. When I first started networking I continued to go to groups that didn’t feel like they were a fit for me. I had FOMO. Now, I know better. Go where you feel the vibe is good.
3) Challenge yourself. I used to play a game with myself when I went to an event that I was going to introduce myself to 3 new people or that I would have a long conversation and really get to know at least 2 people. This kept me from hanging out with those I knew. The point of networking is to get to know new people.
4) #Networking is about relationships. It used to drive me crazy when people would show up to a networking event introducing themselves and handing out business cards like crazy. After 6 months of networking I had over 2,000 business cards of others. I chucked most in the trash. Spend time to really get to know people. That is the point!
5) Be #authentic and have fun! Fun for me is helping others so I make a point to help someone else or connect them to someone they want to meet at each networking event. I love to give and it makes life fun.
So step outside your comfort zone. Put a networking event on your calendar. Meet some new people, really get to know them and have fun!