Moving to any new city comes with a wealth of anxieties, both personally and professionally. When it comes to the professional concerns, past friends and supporters often share that all those worries can be curbed by “networking.”
What does it even mean, let alone do? According to the Business Dictionary (yes, that is a thing), networking is creating a group of acquaintances and associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit. Networking is based on the question "How can I help?" and not with "What can I get?"
But even with that question, where do we start?
A good place to start with networking is to get specific about with whom you want to network. Once you know who you are looking for, you can begin to look at where you might find that demographic and who might know them.
From there, define the purpose of your networking. Use these three questions to guide you, because all three will take different approaches to be done well.
First, are you looking to network for your business?
Many people are looking to build a personal network to leverage for individual pursuits. But, there are some slightly different tactics for those networking as business owners. When networking for your business, the connection is still on an individual basis, but you’re also representative of your brand. This approach will require more promotion of the business and the opportunities it offers. This could be through speaking, writing, vlogs, or cross promotion. Look to this Fundera article for tips on networking, specifically with other small businesses, and check out Inc.'s approach to networking as an entrepreneur.
Second, are you looking to build a network in a new city?
If you are moving to new city, growing a new network can seem daunting. That’s why Muse suggests networking before you make the move. There are many techniques to use to get a head start, making the transition easier. Utilize technology to cross reference multi-city connections on platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Because professionals are often jumping cities to progress their career, the Harvard Business Review has written their own how-to on rebuilding and leveraging your network.
Third, are you just looking to reconnect and utilize the network you have?
If you have already worked to build a network of great people and businesses but aren’t sure how to leverage it, Forbes has some ideas on how to extend that network and work it to achieve your professional goals. Having a network of unique professionals is one thing, knowing how to leverage each other for success is a whole other project. Be intentional about reaching out to gain access to doors that would otherwise be out of reach. For more tips on maximizing your existing network look to this article from Entrepreneur.
One final note, if you are new to networking, or just out of practice, be sure to check out this Forbes article on the rules of networking. Like many social interactions, there are unwritten rules and courtesies to be aware of. Be sure you and whomever you are engaging with are conducting yourselves by the same expectations and standards. As I have asked other women what they are looking for when it comes to networking, they all mention clarity. Busy professional women want to know why you want to meet, what value there is in the connection, and how much time it will require.
Ultimately. it is no secret that it’s often about who you know, and less about what you know. In a time where technology is replacing so many facets of business, it has yet to replace the human relationship. Don’t take your network for granted. Like your personal relationships, it takes thoughtfulness, time, and diligence to create and maintain a healthy network. Follow up is important. Be sure to follow up periodically to keep up to date on your network’s needs, wants, and successes; for opportunities to give and participate.
We want to hear from you! What has been successful for you in building and leveraging a strategic network?