Sticky solutions to your everyday business challenges
Question: I’ve been working at my current job for 8 years. Most of the professional people I know are my colleagues or business partners. I’m feeling the need to expand my network and build relationships with people outside of the company. The problem is that I hate networking. Do you have any tips on how to get over my dread and become more effective at it?
Answer: If you think of networking as a series of sundowner’s, no-host bars, and self-stick name badges, we agree, it can be a pretty bleak scene. Diversifying your network and building relationships takes more than trading business cards and updating your contact list. Instead, try some of these strategies to help expand your network and avoid the sundowner scene.
Start with who you know. Take an inventory of past colleagues or friends who are in different fields, but whom you haven’t spent much time with. Reach out and propose a get together over coffee or lunch. Most people will welcome the invitation.
Ask for recommendations. Before you leave the coffee or lunch meeting, ask for recommendations of people they think you should meet. You could say something like, “I’d like to know more people in the _________ industry, and you’re in those circles. Who else do you think I should connect with? Would you be willing to make an introduction?”
Put networking on your schedule. If networking hasn’t been part of your professional life for the past 8 years, you’re going to need to make it a priority. Building professional relationships will never make it to the top of your “to-do” list when things get busy at work. Make it a priority, put it on your calendar, and keep the appointments. It’s an investment in yourself that will have long-term payoff.
It’s easy to coast through your career connecting only with people like yourself. But, there are more ways to build relationships outside of the office than going to networking events. Make the effort to expand your network through one-on-ones to help you broaden career building options, gain insights, and deepen relationship with others who you respect.