Networking should be part of every college curriculum, regardless of major. It is something that everyone should do while in college and continue to do from the day they exit. Unfortunately, many believe that networking is not for them, that it is only for those people that are very outgoing, those that are in sales, or those that have an immediate need for it in their position. However, networking is important for everyone. For example, at some point in their careers, many will experience being displaced from their jobs. Even owners close their businesses to move on and do other things. It is in moments like these that people who did not build their networks wish they had.
Ways to Build Your Network
With proper planning and strategy, you can populate your network with the right type of people in a reasonable amount of time. People who make the effort to constantly develop and nourish their networks will find that it is fun and rewarding. The following are 7 ways to build your network whether you are in sales or just want to further your career.
- Lunch – This is the most underutilized opportunity to build a network. I am amazed at how many people have lunch with the same group of people almost daily. In addition, many executives spend too many lunches eating at their desks. Not only is this not healthy, it’s bad for business and your career growth. One good habit to make is to have lunch with new people every week. Another is to try to never eat alone. By doing so, you are stretching yourself to build relationships with broader sets of people. It also allows you to get to know people from all departments and from all levels of the company. Outside the company, it affords you the ability to stay in touch with former colleagues and friends.
- Exercise – Choosing the right gym allows you to combine a great work-out with running into the right people. Many have found that choosing a gym where many executives work out and going at the right times have proven to be very profitable.
- Community Involvement – Another great place to build your network is through community involvement. Taking leadership positions in your community gives you an opportunity to be more exposed to others around you that have a common interest. If you are genuinely interested in the cause you are fighting for, you will create a bond with others that share the same passion.
- Online – The Internet has created some great ways to get and stay in touch with former and current friends and colleagues. One of the ones I use is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is simple to use, has a large number of users, and helps people share ideas, get information, meet new people, get business, find service providers, find employees, find jobs, and collect testimonials in an efficient manner.
- Professional Associations – This is one of the most common networking tools, allowing you to network with other people with similar backgrounds and interests to yours. Organizations like your local Chamber of Commerce bring professionals together to help each other. These organizations usually bring together 3 components: education, community, and commerce for its membership.
- Join a Networking Group – If you are in sales and want to have your own marketing team from other industries, it is a good idea to join a networking group. The best groups are set up to ensure that you have no competing businesses (or limited overlap) among the other members. This way, everyone in the group is there to create referrals for each other. Business Networking International is one of the largest organizations, with many chapters in most major markets. There are a lot of benefits to joining these groups: They bring you an established organization, processes that work, and make it easier for you to form a group.
- Build Your Own Networking Group – If you are a more seasoned networker with very high-level contacts and already recognize a formable group of other networkers, it may be more beneficial to establish your own group. To form one is not very difficult, and the benefits can be much better than joining the established networking groups. The advantage here is that you have more control over quality, as many networking organizations tend to compromise quality for growth because they are trying to make money.
Networking Can Be Fun
Networking does not necessarily have to be hard, but it is work. By having a strategy and working your network regularly, you will find that building one can be fun, and anyone can do it.
Review our website at activategroupinc.com to understand how an executive coach or business coach can help you increase the success of your career and business, or contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7216 or [email protected]