Breaking into a new industry, job hunting, or trying to initially grow a business can be daunting. Where to even start? Many people just try to connect on linked in or send emails to the people they want to meet asking for help. While it is never a bad idea to ask for help, the most important key to networking is forgotten: building relationships.
It is easy to lose sight of what networking needs to be in order to be a successful experience when you have a goal. There should be two sides to this process asking not only how can they help you, but also how you can help them. What are you bringing to the table for them? Start with this question and the rest will follow.
Genuine connections and relationships aren’t generated from generic emails or linked in connections. There are different ways to start. Join an organization where people you want to connect with are members. Where you are job hunting or trying to grow your connections, an industry group is a great way to meet these connections and create the basis for your network.
When you don’t know anyone, it can seem daunting to try to start reaching out or walking up to everyone. Based on experience it is easier if you start with just one person. Tell them your goals and what you have to offer and ask about what they do. Then see if they can introduce you to anyone who they think you should know. People love getting asked for advice. Follow up after you meet people to see if you can grab coffee to expand on what they do and gain advice.
Informational interviews or one on one meetings can only help substantiate and expand your network. This is where those linked in connections and emails are okay, but do your research. Know a bit about who you are reaching out to, what they do, and a bit about their background to ensure you know not only what they do but also what questions to ask and allow your knowledge to guide the conversation.
So where do you find these people?
- Industry Organizations. There are so many, you can often find them by doing a simple google search. Then go to the events and make it a goal to walk up to two people and introduce yourself and ask them to help you meet people, even though it is hard!
- Use Who you know. It doesn’t matter if they are in your industry, talk about what you are doing and get to know what they are doing. Creating valuable connections and relationships leads to sales, job opportunities, and friendships. You never know who you need in your corner so working on finding those people who bring value to you regardless of what they do.
- Linked In. Now for this one, do your homework. Looking up what they do and who they are and then send a message asking to connect. Be specific and genuine.
- Other social media. Reach out to your network! Sometimes just asking those you know for connections or help can open up a lot of doors.
If you are introverted this can be hard. Set realistic goals for yourself that you know you can achieve and remember that the worst that can happen is someone says no.