3 Tips to Improve your Networking
Networking can seem like an activity that everyone is doing more efficiently than you. If you are not getting ahead in your career, people will tell you, “go network more.” How do you get started though? Having lived, worked, and researched on three continents, these are tips I have picked up along the way and I hope can be useful to you.
Effectively Attend Networking Events
Before you can start networking effectively, you have to understand that traditional networking, is a broken process. With the rise of the internet, there are countless networking events begging for your attention. You need to be discerning what event you decide to attend. Don’t just read an event tagline, try to find out if any of your friends may have participated in that event in the past. What you are trying to avoid is the events where people are just trying to get paid or get laid. A better situation would be a group of people who are trying to get ahead but are also trying to help each other.
Once you have identified the event, develop a plan of attack. Are you trying to find a mentor? Are you trying to do market research? If you are just trying to grow your network, go in with that goal, do not go to an event, meet a few people who are not useful to you, and say, “Well, at least I grew my network.” You will likely not keep in contact with those people and probably choose to return to the event in the future. Instead, you should eliminate that event unless you hear the vibe has changed which does periodically happen. The sign of a productive event is one that satisfied your goal. Another note for smaller events is even if it met your goal, try to space out how frequently you attend. You should be able to keep up with your new contacts via email or text and should utilize the time to participate in a different event or do something else.
Utilize Your Difference
Outside of general networking events try to meet people that allow you to leverage your difference. Whether that is cultural, gender or something else, find people who are also a minority in the majority. Your fellow minorities know what it is like to be in your shoes. They can point you in a different direction than a direction someone who is in the majority may suggest. I experienced this in Hong Kong when I got more assistance from fellow Americans because they could relate to my circumstance. There are many of these support groups across industries you just need to go out and find them. These groups can help you find opportunities that may only be open to people that are similar to you.
Explore Other Channels
Outside of local events and leveraging your difference there are many other methods to meet people. These are a few that I recommend.
LinkedIn has the reputation as the ultimate tool for professional networking. You will attend events, and people will request that you add them on LinkedIn. I am still not sure why people do this because likely neither of you will keep in contact. LinkedIn struggles at maintaining professional relationships, but is much better for sourcing candidates and finding new jobs. There are exceptions to this, but if you are starting out, use LinkedIn to find internal recruiters. Their job is to find new candidates; so, you can make both of your jobs easier by connecting with them. The problem with using LinkedIn to network with higher executives at companies is LinkedIn’s connection feature means those requests are likely to be missed. If you can make a good impression on a recruiter, you can likely network within a company through them.
Medium is an excellent source for finding thought leaders and developing yourself as one. If you find someone you enjoy, try to comment on their post and engage with the author. This engagement accomplishes two goals, it allows you develop a relationship with the author, and it can enhance your understanding of the topic. Assuming you are trying to become a thought leader, you should be posting your content on medium and not a personal blog. Posting on Medium takes advantage of growth concept called “playing in someone else’s sandbox.” When you are starting out, no one outside of family and friends is likely to see your content. When you go to a more significant site like Medium, you can take advantage of their existing traffic in the hope that people will stumble upon your content. Should you build up enough traction, then you may transition to your site and see how many of your fans follow with you.
Twitter’s importance has ebbed and flowed over the past few years and can best be used to connect to media and tech personalities. Many in these communities like to promote their latest projects and it can be an easy to develop relationships. To start, find someone who is well known in a niche but doesn’t recieve a lot of engagement. Try to get their feedback on something that relates to what they posted and take the relationship from there. Your goal should be to get them interested in your projects and see who else they suggest you connect to within their network.
Conferences are best for meeting industry specialists, with a particular focus on traditional industries including Supply Chains and Finance. Before you attend a conference, make sure you understand the type of people who are participating. You will hopefully have built up a network before going; so, reach out to your contacts to see if that event may be attracting similar people. If you are just starting out, it can be hard to rise above the noise at mega-conferences, and it may make sense to start at a smaller venue. If you are trying to sell to a Fortune 500 company though, you will only find these at significant events.
If you are budget conscious, you should be aware that most conferences “deals” offered by the organizers are terrible deals. These deals often take advantage of your laziness by providing minor discounts on expensive hotels or transportation. By putting in a little work on your own, you can lower the bar on the financial burden you will try to recoup.
When attending, the two tips I suggest are do not attend every session and go to the after-hours events. Many people will go and listen to every speaker in a conference track, instead try to see who is hanging out in the conference halls because these are usually your fellow hustlers. At night, be sure to attend the evening events because this is another time people are most receptive to meeting people. Try to stay out as late as possible to meet the best people, but this is not an excuse to get too drunk. You are there to meet people not to make a fool of yourself. The same rules of networking events apply here if the conference was a waste for you, do not go back.
These tactics are all things you should be able execute on your own. If you would like some help, we at Arternic are trying to create a world where it no longer matters where you come from or where you went to school. We identify people who can help increase your impact in your career and community. If that sounds interesting, feel free to reach out and join us. www.arternic.com/join