David Capece, Managing Partner
Now more than ever, relationships are a top priority. We have covered the rising trend towards building meaningful relationships. Whether you are looking for a job or happily employed, it’s always a good idea to build your network of contacts. Below, we share some tips to fuel your networking efforts.
1. Have a plan. Think about the types of people you want to meet and how you can get to know them. Should you focus on conferences or friendly handoffs? Do you want to meet those who are making hiring decisions or purchasing decisions? How many people do you want to get to know, and how quickly? Once you identify people to speak with, be sure to have an elevator speech about who you are and where your interests are. Better yet, if you know something about them in advance, then customize the conversation to match with their interests and experiences.
2. Size matters. The power of your network grows exponentially with its size and activity. Take the time to get to know a diverse group of people with different skills, backgrounds, experiences, and interests. That said, there should be a common thread to the types of people you are meeting and developing relationships with. Do you want to meet a range of leaders across industries or focus on immersion into one or handful of companies that are a key priority? While it’s great to make 50 new contacts…do you want to have 1 contact at each of 50 companies, or 25 contacts at each of 2 companies? Either way, better to have more contacts.
3. Follow-up. If you have a great conversation, let them know that you’d like to stay in touch and will be following up. Send an e-mail telling them how much you enjoyed talking with them, and plan for future discussions. While you certainly shouldn’t pester people, it’s a good idea to check in periodically to say hello, send an interesting article, or meet for coffee. My favorite suggestion: at the end of every meeting, ask if there’s someone else that you should be speaking with either inside their organization or at your organization of interest. You’d be surprised…if everyone you meet makes a friendly intro to 2 or 3 other people, you’ll be on your way to growing a large network.
4. Deepen a few key relationships. It’s great to have 500+ connections on LinkedIn. It’s even better if you have deep relationships with some of them. Ultimately, your network will have a few central contacts that serve as mentors, ambassadors, and perhaps as friends. Hopefully these contacts will include a few influencers (our blog post on how to identify influencers) These are the most valuable relationships. If you find particularly good chemistry with a contact, then follow-up a little more often to let them know what you’re up to. Coffee, lunch, dinner, drinks are great. Think creatively about how to keep them involved. Can they serve as your mentor? How can you help them (which leads me to my last point)?
Here is a video of Seth Godin dispelling the myth that all digital friends matter:
5. Reciprocity. Networking doesn’t work if it is a selfish, one-way exploration. Ultimately, people invest their time in developing mutually beneficial relationships. Think about what you can do to help the other person. Pay forward today and reap benefits tomorrow. Find opportunities to make an introduction, provide advice, share knowledge, and make others aware of business opportunities. When you help others, they will see you as a key member of their network, and will be more inclined to help you.
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