Networking: the backbone of the business world. Although it is extremely beneficial to network within professional circles, most people don’t realize the advantage of networking outside of the office and professional arena.
So where do you engage in this type of networking? Everywhere! If you have kids, you can network with other parents at day care or in a carpool. Talk to the person sitting next to you on the train or bus. Those awkward conversations you have as a wedding guest? Think of them as networking opportunities. You can even network at the gym! No matter where you network, you can always start by focusing on what you have in common (i.e. similar commute, enjoy working out, the wedding couple).
Striking up a conversation with people you don’t know or are loosely acquainted with can seem uncomfortable at first; especially conversations centered on business. They don’t have to be, though! Keeping the conversation light will help reduce some of the tension and nerves of talking with someone unfamiliar.
Once you get the ball rolling, the conversation will become more fluid and easy. To gauge if the person will be a beneficial networking contact, you can ease the conversation toward more business topics. Casually offer information about your work; maybe tell a funny story about something that happened at the office the other day. Once the conversation is more business-oriented you can ask them about their work. Keep the conversation even – offer as much information about your work as you ask about theirs.
Not every conversation will result in a new business contact, but you should be prepared to give out your professional information and to receive theirs – carry a few of your business cards with you everywhere!
The most crucial step is the one that is usually skipped – follow up! People often connect with others who have potential to be a great business contact but there is never any follow up, and the opportunity is lost. The next day you should send them a quick email or leave them a short message to make a more concrete connection.
Tell us: Have you ever made a connection in an unusual place?