Early on in my career I had a fairly naïve view of networking. When I thought about “networking” I thought about disingenuous sales types thrusting a card in my hand before I even had a chance to introduce myself.
I also thought networking was only for people looking for a job and since I was in a career I loved and had no intention of EVER leaving the company I was with, who really cared? Well, 10 years later (and a few career moves down the road), I have a somewhat different and expanded view.
“Build your network before you need it,” is what one of my wise mentors told me and I am glad I took the advice.
I have made a more concerted effort over the last five years of my career to reach out more, to help where I can, to connect people and to attend events where I can meet like-minded people. Everything I thought I knew about networking was wrong. Okay, yes, there are some types out there still thrusting cards in your hands but for the most part I find those fewer and farther between.
If you take a genuine, authentic and generous approach to networking you will be delighted and benefit greatly – I assure you.
So how to build your network and where to start?
Identify which events/industry associations you’re interested in and check out some of their events. Hold off on the membership fees until you’re sold that you want to attend enough of the events that it makes sense financially. Try a range of different events from general business events such as BC Business Top 100 Luncheon and Business in Vancouver 40 Under 40 Awards to industry specific events. To view a vast list of different industry groups, check out NetworkinginVan.com
Set small goals. If you find networking overwhelming – give yourself a goal of attending two events a month. Before the event, see if you can find out who else might be going and identify a few key people you want to meet when you’re there. I have often asked event organizers if they can share attendees prior to the event, the worst they can say is no.
Follow up. I will share ways in which you can do this in my next blog! Start small – such as a quick follow up email, an invitation on Linkedin (please personalize, don’t use the standard greeting), an invitation to another event they might find interesting.
Don’t necessarily offer a business card unless you’ve had a real connection with someone. It’s not about contacts, it’s about making meaningful connections.
Be gracious. Think about how you can potentially help someone or who you can introduce them to. Try and be a connector. Don’t go into an event thinking about what’s in it for you – change your mindset and you might be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.
Image: Shiny Happy Healthy
Slowly but surely you will start to build a network of like-minded individuals. Nurture those relationships and show up in your community in a positive and generous way. I am firm believer in the law of reciprocity. Help others and in turn, you will be helped – and remember, build your network before you need it.