For many professionals, it is alarming that 2022 is only a few days away. While so much of the past two years has been spent trying to stay afloat, many have been forced to be realistic about how far they have come in furthering their career growth. Amid countless challenges, one thing that remains uncertain is how to approach bonding with other professionals over the next year to support your own growth.
We already know how to connect virtually; online meetings have become the new normal. But how do you meet new people and bond with them in order to create symbiotic professional relationships? If you are one of the thousands of people looking for a career change in the face of the pandemic, it can be especially difficult, especially when dealing with the natural anxiety that comes with meeting new people in general.
Networking is networking. There isn’t much to say about the definition of the word, and not many new and surprising ways to approach it; There are, however, different angles to consider when embarking on building and maintaining relationships after about a year of complacency. Even the most outgoing of social butterflies can admit that networking isn’t always fun. In fact, most people really don’t like it, and that’s okay. Accept it and move on: Networking, whether you like it or not, is essential. And it’s not about knowing how to have fun networking, but how to do it well.
Whether it’s networking, marketing, or business development, you always need to have a plan. When it comes to networking, most people think they want to meet new people and see this as a plan, when in fact “meeting new people” is a goal. So if the goal is to expand your network, what’s the plan to achieve it?
When developing a plan, it helps to start with your expectations. Being specific, ask yourself what you hope to accomplish by connecting with other professionals. As the New Year approaches, this is also a great time to ask yourself this question. Do you hope to get 5 new customers in X time? Are you trying to find new references and resources? Do you want to become an industry leader in your field? Is there another area in your field that interests you? Basically : Who do you want to connect and why? Keep in mind that no matter how advanced you are in your industry, there will always be someone who knows more, or at least, someone who has different perspectives which can be of great benefit. utility to you. Consider what exactly you want as you approach your career, then hold yourself accountable:
- When you attend an event, whether online or in person, set a goal for yourself. A good example might be “I’m going to talk to at least 5 people I don’t know and get their contact details.” If you are attending an online conference, commit to connecting with these people online through LinkedIn and set the same goal of 5 or more people.
- See who is attending the event in advance. This is very helpful when planning how you might approach people. If you can, find people ahead of time so you know what topics to discuss.
- When you are in the process of creating a network, write down what has been discussed. Networking involves follow-up, and you’ll be very happy to receive written reminders of what you’ve talked about and questions to ask.
- Just like you’ve made a commitment to meet at least 5 new people, make a commitment to do the same number of follow-ups. Set a deadline for yourself so you don’t forget, or don’t let the hard work of continued engagement procrastinate.
Go off the beaten track
It’s easy to think of networking as meeting and socializing with new people, but in reality, making the most of your current network can be seen as thinking outside the box. How to work the contacts that you already have?
You might consider the people your people know and come into contact with on a regular basis. It is totally appropriate to ask questions about the connections you have already made with other people. It is not uncommon to express interest in someone’s business relationship outside of your own. It is extremely helpful to have professionals who are ready to put you in touch with others and spread a good word.
To think outside the box is also to connect with old acquaintances. Just because you haven’t been in touch for a while doesn’t mean you are missing out on an opportunity, it can in fact potentially promise you a new opportunity. Many executives have found great business advice from people they already know versus new acquaintances. On top of that, the pandemic is a great time to reconnect. Professionals find themselves more isolated than ever and are more than happy to reconnect with someone they have lost touch with.
Open Vs. Closed Networks
Few people go to the service to think about how dynamic and complex networking can be. It’s not just about who you know or plan to meet, but also what your engagement with them looks like. Another way to think about this engagement is in terms of open and closed networks. You might want to consider connecting with people who aren’t even in your field. Why not get in touch with someone who is close to your interests and see how your activities could expand in that direction? While you don’t necessarily want to make a difficult shift to another area, there is a lot to be gained from incorporating other industry strategies and goals into your own practice.
When networking is insular, experience and knowledge are so often shared that there are few new lessons to be learned. But, when you try to connect to one or two outside clusters, you transfer knowledge and in turn receive. This is an active and vibrant form of communication and networking rather than a regular business relationship with which you wait for opportunities to develop.
Additionally, by connecting with external clusters and transferring knowledge, you prepare to become a stronger industry leader within your existing network. Being exposed to different ideas and challenges makes you a stronger authority on how to tackle yours. Whether or not you are currently a manager in your field, being an industry leader is always something to aspire to. The best way to make the most of the coming year in your career is to see networking not as a social skill but as research. skill. Ultimately what you do is learn and improve your strengths by having experiences with other people and other fields, bringing those lessons back to your industry and showing that you can make an impact on your field in an innovative way.