A very good friend came to me recently for some professional advice. She had just lost her job and needed to start the networking process. She wanted my help to connect with people who could help her find a job. She wanted to connect to the right people.
Folks, my friend is too late. Way too late.
The way to find the right people or right person is build a network of friends and professional contacts now – not when it’s too late. Then, when the need arises, we are not starting from scratch. The network is in place. The right people are part of our circle and the rest is easy.
Interestingly, there is a whole other level or potential if you start now and not wait until it’s too late: the unexpected can happen! New relationships, a wider circle of friends and a strong network, professional and personal, can produce exciting changes to your life even when you are not looking: new job opportunities when you are looking for one, new personal friendships and new professional connections that can help you in your current career, to name a few.
So how do you meet new people? How do you build the network now so that you can meet the right person later? Here are my top four tips to building your professional network.
- Be sure your Linkedin profile is up-to-date and interesting to read, regardless of whether or not you are looking for a job. You will be very surprised how many people will look at Linkedin to do a little research on you. They are looking for new connections as well and they may very well reach out. They may have also just met you at an event or function and want to know more. They are going to your LinkedIn profile. Update it now.
- Have a 20 second elevator speech ready to go at all times. For conferences, meetings, introductions from a third party or even that real elevator ride when someone takes an interest. Be ready to answer the question “so tell me a little bit about you?” Or “so what do you do for a living?”. You need to do this in 20 seconds, it needs to be interesting and it needs to prompt a second level of discussion. It isn’t the 20 second elevator speech that gets new connection – it’s the 10 minute discussion afterwards that seals the deal – or kills it. The 20 second elevator speech is just the initial sales call. You have to close the deal.
- Take an interest in people – personal and professional. Your interest in them will lead to their interest in you and eventually a new open door. An acquaintance of mine has declared the ‘new connection door’ to be completely closed – both personally and professionally. Can you imagine? A full house – no room for more! That is sad but it’s not the saddest part. It gets worse. As a result, he takes no interest in other people now. Not a fun discussion.
- When attending a conference or event, strategize. Don’t just come and go. Do some research beforehand. Who will be there that you might like to meet or ‘accidently’ run into? Connect prior to the event or ask for a few minutes of his or her time while you are there. Or wait until you are there and seek them out for an actual ‘hi’ and potential chat. And be ready with your opening line. Don’t be to a stranger to that person sitting beside you before the breakout sessions? Get the conversation going.
Meeting new people is not easy. It takes effort, strategy and for some people, guts. And the payoff is not coming tomorrow. It’s coming years from now when you really need it. When you want to meet the right people.
By the way, once you’ve built your network you need to manage it. Like any portfolio of assets. Be sure to catch my blog post next week on managing your ‘relationship portfolio’.