North America is the most networked society in the world. You network for your next career opportunity, and you network in your daily and family life. Don’t diminish the power that networking can bring to you and the powerful results it can bring to others.
I have completely embraced networking as a means of communicating my knowledge, passion and commitment to help my executive clients reach their career goals and dreams. Not only that, but it’s a lot of fun! I meet intriguing and unusual people every day.
In each community, large and small, there are two kinds of networking opportunities. There’s the networking with a capital “N,” such as networking events, business functions, and conferences. These are the ones with a specific business purpose, designed to promote you as a viable candidate in front of a defined audience.
I am lucky to be in the position to attend conferences and facilitate networking meetings, both in Toronto and in London, UK. While I am also privileged to have been invited to speak at various events, I have also realized the benefits I can bring others by just attending and participating. Sharing, sharing, sharing is important for me. Make it important for you.
What are you already doing?
Networking doesn’t just involve business. We all attend events that are more community-oriented, that boost that sense of neighbourhood spirit. This is networking with a small “N” – volunteering, attending charity and community events, family gatherings, concerts, your place of worship, or the sports arena to play with or cheer on your favourite team or kid.
It is here, as you’re enjoying activities on a personal level, that you sometimes forge the richest connections that advance your career.
Another underused networking tool is the alumni association of your university or college. Many of my clients have met their next boss at an alumni event, or generated leads that steered them to their next executive appointment.
Give yourself the tools to succeed
Networking is not just about taking; it’s about opening up and collaborating on idea generation, and sharing leads that can benefit others. Yes, the thought of shaking hands and making conversation with a room full of strangers can be unnerving, but with practice you can learn how to introduce yourself and keep the conversation flowing.
Never attend a networking situation unprepared. Always have a suite of tools at your fingertips, to boost your confidence when the conversation turns to you and your career goals. Have a well-rehearsed infomercial – a 30-second summary that articulates exactly who you are and what you can bring – supported by professionally prepared business cards and other marketing collateral.
Step out of your silo
Be aware of the abundance of networking options around you. Sites like Meetup.com and Eventbrite allow you to step out of your silo and open up new opportunities. Just don’t ignore invitations from your own circle of business, academic and community contacts. For example, the local chapter of your industry association likely has monthly meetings, as well as their own annual conference.
If networking with a capital “N” scares you, start with “n” networking and be open to meeting more new people while doing things you already love. Just know that at some point, you will need to jump in because networking must be a purposeful and frequent part of your ongoing executive career management.