How to Network Like a #BossLady
I gotta admit, I wasn't always the keen networker that I am now. When I first started my career in marketing, I was incredibly shy and always felt like I was bothering people if I reached out. It couldn't be further from the truth and as my career progressed, along with my confidence, I found that networking opened new doors for me that I could never have imagined.
Learning how to properly network is important in business and is a cornerstone of good marketing and sales. Did you groan at that? I know, everyone hates marketing and selling themselves. Plus, why should you "sell" yourself. If people really liked you, then why would you need to? I'm above selling myself.
Everyone has these thoughts, and it's normal. I have these thoughts all the time. But life is full of opportunities and in our modern brand-centric, social media heavy world, you must develop a personal brand to thrive in business. Don't believe me? The business person? Branded. The sweet stay-at-home mother who loves to bake? Branded. The eco-friendly, vegan hipster? Branded. The fashionista with the latest handbags? Branded.
I would make the argument that those who are truly successful are really good networkers with a strong personal brand message. I'm good at X, and I'd like to work with you on Y to achieve Z. Boom!
Below are some of my tips to network like a boss lady in 2018 - and beyond!
Put Your Pride Aside
Take that chip off your shoulder. If you want to be successful at networking you must put your pride aside. You're not bigger than anyone and no one else is bigger than you. There are plenty of people in my past whom I didn't really keep up with and now we often communicate. There are plenty of people who I don't exactly remember, but for one reason or another they remember me and reached out. Either way, holding onto your pride is the fastest way to failing at networking. The reality is, life is busy for everyone. Plenty of people go years without talking and end up friends again. You never know when you might need someone, and you never know when someone might need you or your skills.
Having a Network and Having Friends Are Different
Your friends are the ones whom you keep up with on a regular basis. They're the ones who you can let your guard down to and probably know you best. Don't automatically assume that your network is the same. Your network may consist of primarily business contacts or colleagues whom only know you on a professional basis. This is not being fake. This is not being a sellout or obtuse. It's called being an adult. Not everyone is your best friend but that doesn't mean you should write them off. Having a network is key to growing your career and it's important that you don't confuse it with who your friends are.
It's OK to Reach Out Via Social Media
There was a time when you wouldn't even think about adding a professional contact on social media. You only added classmates or coworkers that you knew. For better or worse, social media plays an integral part in human communication and outreach. There are literally two billion people on Facebook! It's absolutely ok to reach out to people and maintain relationships via social media, but never get too casual unless you know them very well and they feel comfortable with it. Use your common sense in how often to comment, like, and/or write to them.
Don't Neglect Traditional Communication
I can't believe I'm saying this, but take some time to do some "traditional" communication like meeting up for coffee, having a phone call or even sending a note. You know - with paper, envelopes, stamps... Taking the effort to actually meet up or speak on the phone is so crucial to building a strong network. Some of my best conversations and networking happens during lunch. If I'm in a certain area, I may treat an old colleague to lunch or simply have a quick chat with someone over the phone.
Read, Read, Read
If you want to network like a pro, you have to develop the gift of gab and the ability to speak about a wide array of topics. If you're able to speak about topics that matter to your network - you've hit the jackpot. I try to read as many books as I can, and I have Google Alerts on all facets of technology because my network is primarily interested in that. I spend 30 minutes every morning reading the latest headlines, more specifically cloud technology, and I often send interesting articles to my colleagues if it relates to them. This is a great way to keep in touch and share a common interest.
Put the phone down
We're all addicted to our phones, but make an effort to put it down. When you're at a networking event, or anywhere really, holding up your phone signals to people that you're not interested in conversing. People are more likely to approach you or strike up a conversation if you seem open to it. Commit to only checking your phone once or twice an hour if you're at an event and make the most of your experience there instead of catching up on random news or endlessly scrolling through social media.
I hope these tips help you. Above all, take it slow. If you're a naturally shy person, like me, then don't get intimated by jumping in all at once. Make it a goal to introduce yourself to one new person per month, pay a genuine compliment to someone once a week, etc.