Networking Part 1 – Informal Networking
Have you ever walked into a room filled with strangers at a networking event with the intention of meeting just three people and then giving yourself permission to leave? That was me when I first started out in business. My introvert self wanted to be anywhere but in that room, but I could rev myself up to the task if I knew I could leave as soon as I met three new people. How effective do you think those connections were? First person, check! Second person, check! Third person, yes – I am OUT OF HERE! 😰 (not very effective, in case there was any doubt)
Beginning in 2011, when my husband and I started moving to various locales across the country for his job and, because I also had started my business coaching practice, all of a sudden, I knew no one and HAD to get out. Gradually, with time, repetition and meeting some amazing people along the way, I overcame my concerns, completely shifted my perspective on networking, and now get it. Networking became THE key to my business success.
I realized, for me, that the word “networking” created a mental block. I thought of it in only one way – the traditional “networking event”. While these get-togethers are a critical form of networking; along the way, I realized that networking really is just a form of “connecting” and THAT I do enjoy.
We are informally networking almost any time we have an interaction with another person. For me, lately, that’s been:
- The squirrel catcher who was just up in my attic corralling critters
- Fellow hikers around Western NY and virtually around the country
- Other volunteers with Buddy’s Second Chance Dog Rescue 🐾 🐶
You just never know when you will meet the right person who could use your help or who knows others who could. The nice thing in these situations is that they tend to be low pressure and, when you talk about your work, it comes naturally and doesn’t sound like a canned speech.
Just recently, someone I used to hike with on a regular basis connected me with one of their recently retired friends who is starting a new consulting business and needs help with business planning. Wooo hooo!! 🎉⚡️ The squirrel catcher (ok, the pest and wildlife services specialist) was looking to grow his business so I told him my local BNI chapter would welcome him and I’m sure would wrangle up some pest control work for him quickly)
The key – engagement with people is a must. Whether it be the local store owner who helps you find just that perfect gift, someone who climbs mountains with you, or even the squirrel catcher – see every interaction as an opportunity to connect with and get to know someone better. Think about how you may help them in their work. They will do their best to reciprocate.
Before you know it, you are networking like crazy and not even realizing it.
Stay tuned later this week for Part 2: Making the most of traditional networking opportunities.