I’m not a fan of structured networking events. I fully acknowledge that it’s essential to network for career growth. But the idea of walking into a packed room of strangers wearing name tags makes my stomach churn. (Maybe, that’s just me.) And so I avoid it. As with exercise, the best networking regimen is the one you’ll actually do. Here are ways to design a plan to match your disposition and build in benchmarks so that you’ll follow through.
What are Weak Ties and Why Do They Matter?
In the process of changing careers or building a business, you’ll need to keep expanding your base. A tight circle of family and friends are important for support, but a seminal study demonstrated that they are not as likely to bring you closer to a new job or client. It’s the weaker ties or acquaintances that offer a better path to lead you to success. And there are a number of reasons for this. By now, your work narrative is already well known with loved ones. Connecting with a more casual acquaintance creates an opportunity to reshape and share who you are today and what you’re looking for. The other upside is that people beyond your inner circle can be a bridge to new information, ideas and contacts.
Tailor a Strategy to Match Your Strengths
As with any balanced relationship, when you network for career growth, you won’t be able to participate completely on your own terms. Flexibility is important. But you’ll have a better chance to expand your base of connects, if the tasks aren’t met with dread.
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Consider these questions:
What are the networking opportunities that are organic to your social life?
Do you engage more easily with people when you’re circulating around a room or in a quiet one-to-one setting?
When you’re at networking events, does it help when you have a buddy?
Are you more effective during the day or in the evenings?
Are you more at ease reaching out on the phone or via email?
Develop a Connection List that’s Part Aspirational
When designing a networking plan that’s achievable, you’ll want to play to your strengths. But no matter what they are, at some point, you’ll have to mingle with people you might not know (or not know well).
Draw up a list:
1. ACQUAINTANCES (weak ties) currently in your life
2.FRIENDS WHO HAVE SLIPPED AWAY that might be useful to reconnect with
3. INSPIRING PEOPLE YOU WOULD LOVE TO MEET:
Who are the connectors that could enhance your brand and lead you to a job before it’s even posted? Most people are reachable if you put in the time and explore. Think big. Make Linkedin your new best friend and search for your old best friend with whom you’ve lost touch. Dig into social media. It’s amazing how many folks you’ve never met who will respond, if you contact them on Twitter.
Design a Plan with Benchmarks and then Stretch
With your newly created connection list, come up with a minimum number of people you’ll commit to contacting on a weekly basis. 3, 5, 10? Okay. Now, whatever that number is, add a few more. By building in a little stretch, you’re more likely to achieve your goals.
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