And on to post number two of the day!
As I get settled into my second year of working for myself, it’s really incredible to see how the relationships I fostered and connections I made in 2012 are now leading to projects and significant work in 2013. It’s actually kind of the best thing ever.
I’ve always been sort of a natural networker. I love meeting and connecting people, whether it’s with me or someone else. I constantly find myself in the “We need to get coffee or I need to introduce you to so and so” conversation. The thing I’ve consistently found to be true, though, is I often never know what is going to lead to what. I have clients right now who I never intentionally set out to work with, but who I just happened to connect with randomly, casually stayed in touch with, and then eventually started working together. While this doesn’t allow for much control, it’s taught me to really open my eyes when it comes to identifying a “networking opportunity.” They’re not all going to be nicely packaged and tied up in a bow with a “meet up” label slapped on them. The best ones, I find, are completely random.
That realization in and of itself, I think, is kind of the secret to learning to network consistently. To focus on staying open- both online and offline- rather that just “searching” so to speak, for networking opportunities. Meet ups are certainly helpful, but I always get the most out of interactions where there’s no predetermined outcome- the random coffee dates with online friends, going to social events I wouldn’t necessarily go to, sending a complimentary email to the blogger I’ve admired from afar for years (while asking nothing of them), and actually connecting with all those people and family friends my parents are telling me I have to meet. It’s those interactions that have lead to new work.
And beyond the actual act of networking, one thing I always think about prior to every interaction- how can I be helpful? How can I impart some level of support, wisdom, or assistance- regardless of the outcome- for whatever I’m discussing with a person or company? If you plant the seed of support, it not only creates a positive reference, but often leads people to want more. And the more your specific expertise is desired, the better the working relationship!
Makes sense? My fellow business owners, what has worked networking wise for you? Do tell!
Image by Brian Ferry via wit+delight