If you were to ask any professional, business owner, or job seeker, they” probably say to you (quietly and whilst looking down at their shoes) they know they should be networking and spending more time on their network.
How about you – do you find that work, family, clients, social media, or “life” get in the way of actively networking?
I can’t work magic, but try this list to prioritise your networking and get better results from it.
How to make time for your networking
- Understand why you network – YOUR reason: Many people go networking without a clear knowledge of ‘why’. In fact, it’s common for people to have only a fairly vague understanding of why. Statements like “my network will help me find my next client” or “I’ll find new business when I go networking” are common, and show no real thought. There is little or no thought to the ‘how’ you are going to use your network or networking activities to help you achieve your goals. The result? You waste lots of time at the wrong events, speaking to the wrong people on social media and not having the coffees, lunches, drinks and phone calls with people who could really help you grow your portfolio. Disheartening isn’t it?
- Find out who YOUR George is: In my workshops and networking presentations I always talk about why I want to meet George Clooney. OK, it’s a little tongue-in-cheek, but it gets a laugh from attendees and actually makes a really important point. George represents somebody who can help me achieve my networking goals in the short and medium term. Most networkers don’t know who their equivalent is. Do you have a George? The result is you spend a lot of time looking to meet the wrong people, get disheartened and weary as you never get the outcomes you want – then you blame “networking”. Before doing anything else, identify who or what your George is. Now, look through your contacts – who should you be focusing your limited networking time on?
- Networking is more than ‘working the room’: If you were to ask a range of people “what is networking”, I bet you’ll get similar feedback to me. You’ll probably hear how people hate attending events and meeting strangers (I suspect you feel the same way). This is only one way to network. Often it’s ineffective, because you just end up collecting business cards. Ideally, if you have a fairly established network, you want to be spending 80% of your time maintaining and developing your relationships within your existing network and 20% of your time on bringing new people into your network.
- Have a relationship action plan for your key contacts: The really strange thing is that when time is short people tend to cut down not the networking events but the all important follow up with existing contacts. My recommendation is to identify your top ten contacts and write a relationship action plan for each of them. Now, get out your diary (yes, your diary) and translate those plans across into your calendar.
- Spend 1 hour a week nurturing your existing network: We all live busy lives, but we all can spend 15 mins a day or 1 hour a week developing our network. Put this time in your diary and just do it. If you don’t, your network will forget who you are!
- Link face to face, with on-line networking: On-Line networking is often more time efficient at maintaining a high level of visibility than face to face networking (especially between meetings). Don’t discount on-line networking in the way that many experienced networkers do.
- Use your PA or Virtual Assistant: You, personally, don’t have to do all the hard work. Your assistant can identify events for you, proactively manage your diary to help you implement your relationship action plans, find forum discussions for you to contribute to, write thank you ‘nice to meet you’ type e-mails for you after the events….
What else would you add to this list?