Last week, we talked about the benefits of networking. But the question is how does one get started?
There are numerous ways to go about networking; however, before you do that you need to think about your purpose for networking.
Some people do it to meet new people, some people do it for a new job, and some people do it because they want to volunteer with an organization.
So once you’ve identified your purpose for networking, what are you going to say when you meet the person that can help you fulfill your goal?
You need to prepare an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch, is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a product or service and its value proposition, in this instance, the product/ service is YOU. You have to be ready to sell your skills and services to whomever you are speaking. Tell them why you are a great marketer, electrical engineer, lawyer, teacher or other professional.
How does one go about networking?
- Start with the people close to you. We all know tons of people, and if we don’t, our siblings or parents do, or someone in our church knows someone who could help us. So start with your parents, friends, parent’s friends, and past colleagues. Email or call them and tell them your goal and ask them if they can help you get in touch with key people in your industry. See who they know and see if they will introduce you to people in your field that can help you meet your goal.
- Join a professional association. A week ago, I would have told you that professional associations, in my opinion, aren’t beneficial. Last week, I attended an American Marketing Association – DC Chapter networking event. Prior to the event, I always thought professional associations didn’t add value to one’s life and were a waste of money (and mind you, my professional background is in nonprofit organizations with memberships). But since I’m at a transitional point in my career, I went to the event to see what it was like and hear why I should join the organization and ended up meeting several marketing professionals in different fields. It was amazing to be around like-minded individuals. So join a professional association in your field or in your dream field to meet like-minded people and get that dream job or just to meet new people.
- Talk to a colleague you trust. We are all in different fields, but you should have a handful of colleagues that you can truly trust. If you do, then reach out to those people and see if there’s any way they can help you achieve your aforementioned goal or see if they have any helpful ideas. Don’t discuss this with your colleague via work email or phone; try to do all communication via face-to-face communication or via personal devices, so it’s untraceable by your company’s IT department.
Most importantly, remember your network is like your personal web. It’s full of people you know or people who you are connected to in some way. Use them to help you get to where you want to go professionally. Just like you use them, they will in turn use you. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship where both parties can win.
Go out and build your network!