Tips for More Effective Networking
Wed, 06/25/2014 - 10:43am | by Helen Hoart
We’ve all heard about the “old boys’ network.” How well are you using your “successful women’s network?”
Sure we all admire the person who got to the top on their own but if we took a close look we’d realize most everyone has help on their success journey. And part of that can come from tapping into your network and asking for help.
But how do you build a network? Professional organizations, business groups and work-related meetings are always a good place to expand your network. Volunteer to help out at meetings. This allows you to meet people as you work on a project and can feel more natural than glad-handing at a meeting.
But just meeting people isn’t enough. Take the time to find out about them. What interests them? When you need help with something related to their interests, you can tap into their expertise. Networking is not about walking up to someone and saying: “Hi, tell me how you can help me.” Instead, it’s about connecting and sharing.
Admittedly being a schmoozer helps. You know the person who can walk into any room and walk up to a stranger and start a conversation. I’m not that kind of person. That’s why I find volunteering helps me meet people. When I was thinking of changing jobs I scrolled through my contacts. I found a woman I had met at a professional meeting who was working at the company I wanted to join. When we first met we realized we had shared interests. Because I had networked with her earlier (and followed by sending her information she was interested in), I was comfortable enough asking her about her asking her to give me some guidance about applying for a job at her company.
Expand Your Network
Don’t limit your network to professional colleagues. Your network can include people you meet at church, your hairdresser or dentist, neighbors or the parents of your children’s classmates. Again make sure you explore people’s interests. I knew the woman who cut my hair was a photography buff. When I was looking for a nature photographer for an assignment, I asked her for recommendations. And presto, I got the name of the perfect photographer.
Social media can play a role too. They can become your virtual networks. LinkedIn is a great place to expand your network by identifying people with similar business interests. LinkedIn groups can become a referral network. Or try crowdsourcing on Facebook when you face a challenge or a dilemma.
Many of us are shy about asking for help or a referral. Don’t be. Friends, colleagues and others are usually willing to help. And remember, networking is a two-way street. The more you help others, the easier it is to ask for help when you need it.