One of the most import lessons that I teach my high school students is the power of NETWORKING. I wish that someone had told me this when I was younger. Luckily, whether you actively or passively pursue it, your network builds itself. The fundamental question is whether you want to leave such an important tool to chance.
What is your network? It is the group of people that you can turn to when you are in need of any single thing. It can be unimportant things like restaurant recommendations or it can be something really important like a job interview. Your network is just as important to a business as it is to an individual.
So….as always, you have a choice. You can let your network build naturally, which means it fills up only with friends and family, or you can aggressively go out and develop your network and fill it with positive and successful people from other businesses or your community. If you take the time to impress them, they often will be willing to help when you need it.
Where do you find people to add to your network? There are all sorts of opportunities to meet new people if you actively pursue it. In school you can join groups like your student government or sports teams or try out for a play. You can work on community service projects or participate in groups like SADD or DECA or National Honor Society.
In college the opportunities grow, as their are even more organizations that are designed to bring people who have similar beliefs together. If your interests are political you can join your college’s young Republicans or young Democrats organization. If your interests are environmental, there is usually a club for that. If your interests are religious, there are usually ministries or prayer groups relating to the religion of your choice. More often then not, some of the best learning on a college campus doesn’t take place in a classroom
- There is no shortage of networking opportunities.
Once you leave school altogether there are still great opportunities to network. Most fields have professional groups that meet regularly where you can share ideas or even sales leads with other professionals in your field. Your local chamber of commerce often has monthly meetings and even speakers or seminars on certain specific areas of interest. Some events are designed only as mixers to get local business people together to talk about their businesses or products or services.
I am a firm believer in life long learning. Even though I haven’t attended school in about 25 years, I never stopped being a student. I am constantly going to professional development events, and I much prefer the ones where I can meet people and shake hands as opposed to webinars and conference calls where the chance to interact is very little. Interacting with the organizers or speakers is an awesome way to add to your network, but the attendees are also a great resource as well.
Even if I don’t attend events, I am constantly researching something or another. In today’s world, it is so easy to interact with professionals and experts of all kinds. People who write articles often post e-mail addresses on their websites or blogs. You can easily fire off an email with a quick question or compliment.
Once you have begun to build your network, it is important to maintain it. That’s never been easier with the advent of social networking websites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I’ll go into this in-depth at another time, but suffice it to say that a quick hello or congratulations or happy birthday post on one of those sites goes a long way towards keeping you connected with the people that make up your network.
Here’s ten great ways to actively build your network
1. Join your local Chamber of Commerce.
2. Volunteer for a political candidate that you support.
3. Organize or attend a neighborhood clean up party.
4. Volunteer for a fundraiser or other charity event.
5. Chair a committee at work.
6. Join a group at your church.
7. Attend a conference or trade show that interests you.
8. Join a volunteer Board of Directors for an organization.
9. Join a group dedicated to your hobby.
10. Attend dedicated networking group events.
Networks happen with your help or without it. If you actively go out and build your network, you can fill it with the types of positive people you want in it. Remember once you commit to creating the network that you want, you have to maintain it. Keep your name in people’s minds.
There is no reason not to succeed. The only thing holding you back is…..YOU.