When was the last time you gave serious consideration to networking? Maybe you're happy with your job, happy with your group of friends and partner — aren't those in need of change and career salespeople the only ones who need to focus on networking? The truth is, you never know when a change is going to come, or when one day you'll wake up and decide maybe your job isn't so great after all. Or maybe it's time to spend that year in Paris you've always dreamed about. Having a strong network and spending some time cultivating it on a regular basis is the way forward in life.
In clinical psychologist Meg Jay's cult hit tome "The Defining Decade," she espouses the value of "weak ties." She points out that most of us are expecting our lives to be like television shows whose cast of single city-dwelling characters are each other's entire lives. Instead, she urges young adults to reach out to people they don't know well, because it's often these weak ties that account for our most important introductions and lead to our biggest changes in life. After all, your group of best friends practically shares the same brain, right? They may not be the best to turn to when you're looking for a different life direction. How do you find or reach out to your weak ties (trust, everyone has them)? Read on.
Get Out of the Zone
Your comfort zone is likely what's holding you back. One of my favorite pins of all time states, "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." And it's true. So check out some local cooking classes, see if your local Barnes & Noble is hosting any events you want to attend, don't be afraid to do something on your own. Meetup.com has become the go-to spot for people who move to new cities on their own. There are tons of group activities, even book clubs, that will facilitate your networking desires. Think of a hobby, type it in, and see what pops up.
The Social Network
If you've dismissed LinkedIn (LI) as the site you visit once a year to update your profile and resume, you've been missing out. Consider the site a gateway to making new contacts on a perpetual basis. People are on there to network, specifically. Tons of recruiters and managers are constantly reaching out to potential candidates. The job boards are paid and you're more likely to get a response than being just another anonymous resume. It's also a way to make friends. Reach out to people in your industry who are likely to have the same interests. There's a surprisingly high response rate for LI messages and connection requests. I've met a few fashion and publishing industry pals through LinkedIn myself.
Plan of Attack
When you're going to any event to network, ask yourself what you're looking to achieve. If it's a business event, challenge yourself to get five business cards by walking up and introducing yourself. Actually, challenge yourself to walk up and introduce yourself, regardless of the type of event. But qualifying goals ahead of time, like who you'd like to speak to and what about, is helpful when you're short on time.
The Great Follow Up
You'll be way ahead of the game if you actually follow up on the initial contact requests and pile of business cards or phone numbers you've acquired from your efforts. Most people just don't make the time to send that email. Speaking of, make sure you send it with a relevant subject line such as: Greetings from (Your Name) from the first meeting of Babes Book Club on Saturday
Give a Little
Is there someone in town whose brain you're just dying to pick? That startup guru might not be as busy as you think. That journalist might have a break in her schedule. Point is, reach out. Almost anyone can be reached these days via Twitter, email, a blog or a LinkedIn profile. What next? Ask if you can buy them a cup of coffee and…pick their brain. This way, they know exactly that they're spending an hour doing a pro bono meeting, and they're getting coffee in the bargain. You'd be surprised how many people will say yes.