For some people, networking comes easily. If you're one of those folks, you naturally make connections and have an innate ability to make friends.
If you fall under that category, then you can skip to the last section of this article. For most people, however, networking can be a challenge. It requires you not only to be social, but to turn a pleasant interaction into a relationship.
That can be a daunting task, but it's not as hard as it seems. Break it down into manageable steps, and you'll be building your network in no time.
Play one on one
While industry events and cocktail parties offer networking opportunities, you can also network on a one-on-one basis. Identify people whom you'd like to meet and introduce yourself to them. That could be done via email or social media.
On social media, it's possible to slowly build a relationship. Connect with people in your field who have the same interests as you. Comment on their posts and interact naturally. Over time, some of these people will become actual connections that you can reach out to.
If you contact someone via email, you need to be more direct. Ask to meet for coffee or to have a phone call for a specific purpose like learning about what their company or job is like. Most people are more than willing to help, and many will be grateful for the connection.
Attend an event
Most industries have conferences, after-work gatherings, or other events. Attending these may not be your idea of fun, but it's a good way to meet people.
In a lot of ways, it's like dating. Sometimes you just have to engage someone in a conversation and then ask for their business card. Most will hand one over or offer some other way to connect.
After that, the ball is in your court. It's important to follow up and nurture a small connection into an actual professional friendship.
Every city has charity opportunities for business people. It may be a benefit or a volunteer project, or it may involve serving on a committee.
Volunteering lets you meet people and gives you something to bond over. It's an easy way for a less outgoing person to make new connections and build their network while also serving the greater good.
Organizations like the United Way, Salvation Army, and local food pantries often have opportunities to volunteer. In addition, many cities have volunteer opportunities listed on a website, and sometimes libraries have bulletin board listings. At many companies, human resources can also point you in the right direction.
It's how you use your network
Making connections is only half of networking. Once you meet people, you need to build those relationships and deepen your connection. Social media makes that easier, but it's important to keep contacts warm by regularly interacting.
It's also important to remember that networking goes in two directions. Be generous with your time. Be willing to do anything for someone in your network that you would want someone else to do for you.
If you interact with someone regularly, then at some point you may be come close friends. Consider that an added bonus to the many career benefits of having a vast and varied network.