Networking raises dread and stress in many people.
Why? Because making small talk, exchanging business cards and establishing relationships based on career need, rather than sincere intentions, is downright uncomfortable. Yet, building rapport with peers, colleagues and mentors is a necessary strategy for personal growth and career advancement.
Here are 3 tips for unlocking your inner networking ninja:
- Do What You Love or At Least Like Enough to Do Often.
Focus on your hobbies, participate in community activities and business events that interest you on a personal level, not just on a career level. Networking, for the sake of job hunting, will only serve to provide you with a small percentage of achieving your career goals. Meeting new people that share similar personal interests, passions and life goals as you do naturally lends itself to building a rapport that may evolve into an established business relationship. Although unlikely to happen, the worst case scenario is that your growing network doesn’t propel you up the career ladder as quickly as you like; but the best case scenario is that you have a growing network of like-minded friends and colleagues that will help you on your fun-filled career path.
- Location, Location, Location!
Join professional groups, associations, and clubs that are conveniently located to your place of business. Whether you commute to work or work from home, groups that meet within your local stomping grounds increases the likelihood that you will be an active member. And it affords you the opportunity to strengthen those peer relationships by socializing outside of designated meet-ups. When I relocated to a new state, I made the fatal mistake of joining a women’s healthcare association that met in a city 1.5 hours away from my place of business. How did I fare with that group? I failed the group and it failed me…it was quite inconvenient to clear half of my work day to accommodate 1 hour business luncheons, after work happy hours, seminars etc. because of the long drive. Further, the connections I made were lost since there were very few opportunities to connect.
- 6 Degrees of Separation.
Everyone knows the theory of six degrees of separation, a.k.a. the Kevin Bacon game. It posits that, by way of introduction, everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away from any other person in the world. Hence, “a friend of a friend” chain can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps. Use this “friend of a friend” principle to meet new people that will help connect you to the innovators in your field, expand your skill set, evolve your current career responsibilities, and perhaps offer new job opportunities.
In this chain of who you know, it’s important to learn from every person willing to advise, talk and listen to you about your career ambitions. Think about all of the people you make contact with on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis: your hair stylist, personal trainer, or even your barista. Now, think about all of the people they connect with on a daily, weekly…you get the idea. What does this translate into? Six degrees of separation!
Let’s take another look at my above mentioned relocation example. During my house hunting adventure, my real estate agent introduced me to a fellow science colleague (another client who coincidentally happened to be relocating for a new job role) during the time I was job transitioning. That introduction turned into an opportunity for me to learn more about the scientific community in the area, garner some job interviews as well as an invitation to be a guest science fair judge (now 4 years and counting!). This one connection simultaneously served to expand my science network and career development.
Establishing successful professional connections via networking and nurturing those relationships may lead to career advancement, job offers, business deals, life-long friendships and more.
Have six degrees of separation helped you make positive professional connections? I’d love to hear about it @DrLizSamander #NetworkingNinja.