I was never a “savvy networker.” You know the type. That person who walks into a room and hands out their business card like it’s going out of style. I always found the process very inauthentic. You shake people’s hand, you give each other your elevator pitch, and then you walk away with their contact. You may follow up and e-mail them. You may add their info to your rolodex but more times than not, that’s usually where it ends.
Having been in the business of PR for 10 years now, I am proud to have built my connections through relationship building. This is the kind of networking that I always felt most comfortable with, and in my opinion stands the true test of time. These people have become more than just people I met at an event – they’ve truly become part of the circle of people who I value, and I know value me right back.
So how do you build these relationships? How do you meet these people? And probably the most frequent question I get asked – how do I network if I hate networking?
The good news is, you don’t need to go to your city’s next meet-up event and play speed dating with people you probably won’t stay in touch with. Here are some tips on how to build valuable connections without having to slap a “My Name Is” tag on.
Just Reach Out and Ask
Is there a CEO you admire? An entrepreneur you respect? A person you follow on social media who fascinates you? Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask if they would be open to a meeting. The great thing about the world we live in now is how easy it is to find someone’s contact information. Send them an e-mail, tell them how much you respect their work and if they have time and are willing, invite them for coffee. I’ve built many relationships just by reaching out to people blindly and asking them to go for coffee. It’s a much more intimate setting and it will really give you the time to get to know one another.
Look within your Inner Circle
We often forget that the people within our inner circles have other circles of their own. Perhaps your best friend knows someone in an industry you are interested in. Maybe your uncle knows the owner of a business you have been thinking about applying to. Ask them to introduce you. The greatest thing about knowing someone in common is that it breaks the awkwardness and gives you plenty to talk about.
Plan your own Networking Event
I don’t mean throw an event and invite strangers. Instead, throw a BBQ or a themed event like a Superbowl party and ask your friends to invite people you may not know. This gives you an opportunity to meet new people but in a setting with less pressure.
Use your Current Job
Your profession can truly be a gold mine. Whether you work for a big company, a small sized firm, or perhaps you work for yourself, your job can bring a wide range of potential new contacts. While most of my contacts are in the media and communications fields, I have met people in other industries through a variety of opportunities through my work. Use your field as a way to expand your network. Take advantage and ask to sit it on meetings you normally may not be invited to. Go for after work drinks with people in other departments. Networking through your job is one of the best and most naturally effective ways to grow your contact list.