We're all about networking! So what can you do to make the most of your membership? Read on for some helpful tips and information that you can use everywhere you go!
What is networking?
Making contacts! Networking is all about exchanging information and sharing advice among a group of people with common interests and goals. Networking can be used to expand professional ties, to share hobbies and interests or to further a cause.
How can networking help me?
You can use networking to expand your own circle. You'll be able to establish valuable contacts in a variety of fields for information, advice, inspiration and moral support as you pursue your own goals and help others reach their own. Networking can be an opportunity to discover cross-promotional opportunities, and it can also build community and a sense of connectedness.
Evaluate your networking goals.
- What kind of networking are you already engaging in?
- Who is in your present network?
- Who are you going to need in your network to get where you want to go?
- Where and how can you meet these people? Once you've found them, tell them about yourself and what you're looking for - then find out about them, as well!
Organize your resources so that you can reach people in your network easily. Collect business cards at all networking events, and keep this collection in a file box or notebook. Or, for those who are more tech-inclined, use a program that allows you to scan and save the card information. Many of these programs (including smart-phone apps) can also extract the information from these cards and create contacts automatically. Keeping the cards or contacts organized by category means being able to locate the people you need quickly and effortlessly! You should also keep a file of promotional materials, brochures and other publications that contain information about events, services, businesses and influential people.
Keep a file box (or contact notes if organizing electronically). On each index card, write your contact's information, along with where they work, what your relationship is with them, what you might learn from them and what you might have to offer them. This is also a great place to keep track of ideas discussed with this contact, thoughts that might develop into something later, etc. You can keep track of what you have in common with each person, along with an item or two that is of interest or importance to them that you can use as a conversation starter later.
Keep track of everyone you meet this way. You'll be surprised at how big your network actually is and how quickly it will grow! You can even start index cards for people you'd like to get to know. Make an effort to contact them or place yourself in their path to initiate an introduction. Be creative about supplying information to others.
It's important to be able to take the initiative in making contacts. You can actively pursue and build the connections you need to succeed. Networking works best when you choose individuals, activities and groups and commit to participating and cultivating your resources.
Opportunities to connect are limited only by your imagination. You can meet people and gather information through professional and trade associations, unions, groups, networks, internet communities, conferences, meetings, workshops and classes. Every exchange can be a link to information and resources. Learn to make the most of each opportunity!
Look for ways to 'advertise' yourself, your products or services to WN members. Bring flyers to put on tables, or to hand out at the door. Door prizes (given away at monthly luncheons) are an excellent way to keep your name and your products in front of the group.
ALWAYS carry your business cards, and hand them out. If your organization doesn't supply them, order your own. Hang on to the business cards you collect.
Set goals. For instance, plan to make three new contacts weekly - and follow up with them in the coming month. Send a clipping, email an article, make a phone call, arrange another meeting - this time including a third person. Map out a program to move you toward your goals. This might include:
- Your present network: The various people you already know personally or know of and can readily connect with; colleagues or co-workers, past and present; your parents (or children) and their networks; other relatives and their networks; neighbors, teachers, school friends, members of clubs you have belonged to - all of whom have networks of their own.
- The network you're going to need in order to get where you want to go. You may not know the names of these people, but you know what fields they are in and what type of jobs they hold. You know where to find them.
- Brainstorm ideas on how to expand your present network to include the members of your goal-oriented network of the future. One means of doing this is to find someone who already knows them and can make introductions and put yourself in their path.