Professional networking can take place in a number of different forms these days. It can happen unexpectedly on an elevator or the opportunity can present itself in a meeting of professionals. We think of these methods as rather typical ways of networking. For many, though, the idea of striking up a conversation with a stranger in an elevator is not comfortable and attempting to choose a friendly face to engage with at a networking event can be daunting.
When you’re looking to develop your professional network, it’s very beneficial to develop the skills that make you comfortable in numerous networking situations. As you encounter more of these opportunities, hopefully you’ll feel more inclined to shake off discomfort and introduce yourself. But it also may be true some forms of networking simply aren’t effective for you. Based on your job, availability, and comfort level, are you aware of what the most effective forms of networking are for you?
Effective networking is not always networking exclusively with peers. CK & Company owner and president Cynthia Kay suggests in an article in West Michigan Woman that she enjoys networking with the next generation. If a friend or fellow employee asks her to talk with their young son or daughter, she gladly takes up the task. Great insight and fresh perspective can come from the younger generations, while the older generations can give bright-eyed young professionals career advice and offer sage wisdom, hard won over years of experience. People in all stages of life should be looking to expand their networks with those in the workforce with less experience as well as more.
Don’t just attend the events, plan them. In many places there are groups geared specifically toward professionals in the community, or community organizations that plan regular events. Groups of this sort are an excellent way to network on a smaller scale. By joining their board or planning committee, you can help to plan events, all the while networking professionally with the smaller group leading the charge. You’ll likely make longer lasting connections and if you’re wary of the crowded environment of typical networking, this may be the most effective method for you.
Take advantage of social networking. There is a lot to be said for face to face interaction, but in the hustle of our daily lives, the convenience of professional social networking lets you screen and vet potential connections before you schedule a lunch meeting or other meeting time which may prove uneventful. Share conversations and information on Facebook, LinkedIn, or other networks before meeting someone in person. Answering an inbox message on LinkedIn will take you considerably less time than meeting someone for lunch.
Like so many other things in business these days, networking is not just something to do over lunch or like speed dating. There are numerous methods of networking, many of which were not mentioned here. However, these are a few ideas to try if you’re not as excited about crowded networking events or making cold calls. You can blaze your own networking trail and take advantage of numerous different kinds of networking opportunities until you find the formula that works for you.
What networking methods work for you? Do you ever network outside of your peers? Connect with us in the comments!
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