I recently posted on my Instagram about how over the last 6 weeks I have made some big changes in the way that I work. How I have been able to cut back travelling into London for meetings and attending press events. I was starting to feel guilty or that my career was going to suffer because I wasn’t going to industry events. However, after some thought I realised I have built my career to the point where I don’t need to do all those things anymore. But let me tell you, when I was starting out and building up my business this wasn’t the case. I attended every event, I networked my ass off, and thats been a big part of my success.
When I say the word networking, how does it make you feel? What thoughts come into your head? What image appears in your mind? I know that for most people they believe that if they don’t have an outgoing personality the thought of walking into a room of strangers can conjure up lots of emotions and inevitably end up not going. As an introvert myself, I know networking events can seem like a chore. I find them UUUUBER draining because it feels like everyone is on a mission to make the right connections rather than finding people they naturally vibe with. However, luckily for us, we are now in a place where it has become a lot easier to make those connections.
We are in such an amazing place today where small businesses and freelancers have so much opportunity to promote themselves on the internet and via social media platforms and the truth is, it’s now easier than ever to network with so many communication channels, whether thats online or offline, the important thing is to get started.
As I said I am an introvert, believe it or not, and I know that the thought of making small talk face to face can seem draining. Yet, no one can argue the power of a strong professional network and what it can do for your success. It can help with:
- Staying on top of industry trends
- Meeting prospective clients, mentors and collaboration opportunities
- Improving skill sets and knowledge
- Sparks creativity
- Creates opportunity
So, I thought I would share with you 5 steps that can help even the shyest of people build their network;
- Figure out your network style – like I said earlier we are in a place now where we have options. There is no set rule with how and when to network. Try a few different strategies until you find what works for you. This might be finding people in the same industry or seeking out influencers online first, sliding into their DM’s and building up a connection there, letting them know how much you enjoy their work. Transform those online relationships into something tangible by looking for ways your skills could match up on a project, look for an opportunity that might be good for them and discuss ways in which you could collaborate. Turn those conversations into coffee dates, or find more intimate events with a few attendees first before jumping into the big industry game players. I find this way works really well for me and I get to build relationships one on one.
- Make a game plan – While its good to approach every new networking opportunity with an open mind, it’s also good to go in with one goal in mind. This could be coming away with one new insight, or an aim to connect with 3 new people in your industry, chat an idea through with someone more experienced than you, just have something in mind and go for it.
- Follow up – The time and effort you have invested in reaching out to someone new, follow it up with a simple message. If you have really vibed then see if you can meet just the two of you for dinner or a coffee.
- Be the linchpin – Marketing master Seth Godin wrote a booked called ‘linchpin’ and it’s about how connecting with others can have brilliant results on your own career. Put your new contacts forward for a job you can’t do or start to introduce them to other people who would be of interest to them from a business perspective. You’ll get the credit and it’s an easy way to build your network.
- Invest in your relationships – As you start to build your network look for opportunities to help those in this network before you ask for help. The more you invest in your relationships, the more you will learn about them and it will be easier to offer your help and advice and then – get it back!
The more you get out there, or put yourself out there, the more you will get recognised for the work you are doing.
It’s never too late to start, but the worst networking mistake you can do, is not do it at all!
If you find that your confidence is holding you back, then you might want to check this out… How to let your confident voice stand up.
I’d love to know how you guys feel about networking so drop me message below!