However you feel about networking, it works and it’s necessary. If you hate networking events—whether you’re antisocial, shy, or just really tired of that scene—chances are you avoid going to them as often as you can, and when you do go, you’re probably not at your best.
The good news is, most events are probably not worth your time anyway. People at events are often distracted, excited, and dealing with their own social anxiety. And just throwing business cards around doesn’t really do much for building quality relationships—it just gets you quantity of potential contacts, which doesn’t necessarily convert. What you’re after is quality. And you can easily achieve that without going to events.
Here are a few strategies for how to get connections in other, better ways.
Talk About Your Projects
You’re working on an exciting and challenging new project. Why not ask friends and colleagues if they know anyone who would be particularly suited and/or willing to answer a few questions you may have about some unbelievably cool aspect of your project—or just one with which you’re not quite yet superstar familiar? Benefits: instant icebreaker, friends-of-friends connection, personal intro, and built in reasons to follow-up. Just be careful you only use this when you have a project or problem worth implementing the phone tree for.
Volunteering is a great way to meet people, particularly ones with similar values and interests. And it pads out you resume as well. Try to pick something that has at least some tangential connection to your industry or field—that way the people you meet are more likely to be able to help you down the line.
Use Social Media with Savvy
It’s right there waiting for you and you can do it all in your pajamas. Start with LinkedIn—that’s what it’s for. There are over 400 million people on the site, and almost all of them for the same reason: to build their networks. Check out the “Professionals Like You” tab, a virtual meet-up for people in similar situations and industries. Check out your peers, and send the occasional cold (but carefully personalized!) outreach message. Let people know you’re looking to build up your network and to recommend anyone they know that might be in your industry. Also try joining groups or chats or webinars. You’ll never know who you might meet.
Reach Out to Who You Know
You can beef up your network simply by talking to people you already know. That’s way less daunting. Milk your friends, colleagues, and connections for anyone they know who might be a good fit for you, or vice versa. Get their contact info, and, voila! You just networked. And on the bright side: you have a better intro to them than you would if you just sidled up at the hors d’oeuvres table.
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