With the recent expansion of our business into the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, several people have commented about how quickly we have plugged into the business community here and asked what we are doing to make it happen. So, I thought I would share three simple, effective strategies that have worked for us and our clients.
1. Get clear
Networking can be a full time job if you let it. So before you dive in, clarify what you want to accomplish personally and professionally. Developing specific goals will help you focus on who and what matters most, make the best use of your time, and make networking feel less overwhelming.
Let me give you a recent example. Last week, I spoke to a leader (let’s call her Susan) who told me that she really needs to start networking but finds it draining and difficult. Given her busy schedule, she just doesn’t know how to make it happen. So, I asked her what she was trying to accomplish. Susan explained that she wants to stay at her company, is ready to take on a bigger role, but cannot travel extensively. She admitted that her ideal role may be difficult to get at her company, so she will need strong sponsors to make it happen.
In particular, there are two leaders who could strongly influence her career path. So, Susan needs to make sure that they know who she is and how she is adding value. As a backup plan, Susan needs to build her external network to identify opportunities outside her company. Because we clarified Susan’s goals first, she could quickly develop a list of people she needs to network with internally and externally.
2. Be consistent
Most people focus on their networks when they need something. They typically view networking as optional versus core to achieving their goals. If this sounds all too familiar, I would urge you to set aside time each week to strengthen your network. Remember that it doesn’t have to be time consuming. Even 5-10 minutes per week can go a long way. For example, in less than 5 minutes, you can send a quick email about an event or article of interest, make an introduction to someone they would enjoy meeting, or ask for advice or input.
As you develop your strategies, think about what would be of service to the person you are cultivating a relationship with. Whatever your approach, communicate regularly so that you stay top of mind.
3. Show your stuff
Actions speak much louder than words, so I would argue that the best way for people to get to know you is by seeing you in action. Volunteer for something that showcases your strengths, fits with your passion, and helps you develop strong relationships with the right people. By getting involved, others will notice how you think and the value that you bring – as long as you follow through on your commitments. Otherwise, you risk damaging versus advancing the relationship. Again, you don’t have to invest a lot of your time – but be clear about how much time you can give and carve out something manageable.
Because networking can feel overwhelming, start by developing one achievable goal. For example, you could carve out 10 minutes this week to clarify what you want to achieve through networking. If you already know, invest those 10 minutes instead to reach out to someone you want to strengthen a relationship with. Remember to look for opportunities within what is already on your calendar (e.g., meetings, calls, etc.), rather than adding more to do’s to your list!