Are you a creature of habit?
I don’t know about you, but I feel great comfort in routines, and familiar faces, and consistent expectations.
While I love adventure, I love a good TEMPORARY adventure—one that brings me out of my comfort zone for a season and then sends me back to my safe spaces and routines.
While our affinities for familiar settings aren’t “bad” per se, we encounter problems when we find ourselves looking for growth opportunities, or new leads, or an “in” with a company, but we don’t have a single connection to get us there.
Sure, you might have an incredible entrepreneurial idea or a desire to make a jump to a new industry, but without solid connections, it is difficult to get a foot in the door.
This week, we are going to share 7 tips to help propel you out of your comfort zone into new arenas where you don’t currently have an “in.”
Whether you’re facing this predicament in your current situation or not, these tips are helpful tidbits to tuck in the pocket of ANY superconnector. After all, it’s better to build a network and NOT need it, than to NEED a connection and NOT have it.
7 TIPS FOR NETWORKING WHEN YOU DON'T KNOW A SOUL
Never Eat Alone. In his book, Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi describes how important it is to make every meal count. Whether you’re inviting a new friend you found on Meetup.com to coffee or asking to sit with a complete stranger at a bistro, the impact of putting yourself out there can have exponential effects on growing your network—especially when you don’t know anyone.
Pro tip: Restaurants that allow you to eat at the bar can make it much easier to strike up conversations around you!
Embrace Specificity. Dorie Clark, author of Entrepreneurial You, insists that you must be specific in your requests when looking for new friends or business contacts. She encourages network-builders to peruse LinkedIn and identify specific contacts that you’d like to meet.
Or on Facebook, don’t be afraid to see if anyone has contacts that could help in your new venture. By being clear about the type of contact you’d want to meet (“I’d love to connect with any of your friends in an advertising role” or “I’d like to meet anyone you know with kids the same ages as mine”) increases the chances those contacts will be shared.
Let Slack Pick up the Slack. Slack is a chat platform most often used by companies, but Slack also has communities that have sprung up to provide support and advice to members in similar career settings.
Marketers can join the #CreativeTribes channel or software programmers the #CodeNewbie one. Check out this list of the 12 Best Slack Channels for Every Professional. These communities are a great way to connect with fellow networkers and make connections in industries when you don’t know a soul.
Accept the “Six Degrees of Separation” Philosophy. As you begin expanding your network in new arenas, the truth is, you probably won’t meet your next prospect or potential boss in your first round of networking.
BUT. Don’t discount those initial meet-ups or encounters with strangers. When you accept that it might actually be Molly’s cousin’s friend’s sister-in-law who can actually get you connected to a new opportunity (not Molly herself), it makes investing in the initial connections a little easier.
Don’t be Selfish. When you’re starting from scratch, it’s important to refocus any hints of a “What’s in it for me?” attitude into a “What can I offer new contacts?” framework.
Brad Feld phrases this idea simply and encourages us to “give before you get.” This simple philosophy transcends all aspects of networking and can help any person build more meaningful connections.
When you’re meeting strangers or friends-of-friends with established networks, no one wants to feel “used” or “taken advantage of.” Be generous with your time and resources and the new contacts will reciprocate.
Speak for Free, Even in Unlikely Places. This step might not apply to everyone, but if you’re an entrepreneur, or networker, or marketer (or some combination of all three) who has an idea to share—go share it in public!
Meetups are almost always looking for content, so be willing to share your new business idea or knowledge in any place people are gathered. Speaking publicly about your new venture is a great way to network with a large number of people at once (instead of giving your pitch to 30 individuals who may or may not be interested).
Pro Tip: Want a handy “hack” for connecting directly with those in the room? Try out this slide at the end of your presentation and have the audience send you their name and a selfie!
Stick to the Networking Basics and Have a Plan. At the end of the day, you can complete the previous six steps, but still fail to build a network in for your new venture if you don’t practice quality networking skills—listening well, following up, mapping your contacts. Don’t let all your hard work go to waste. Make a plan and stick with it and you’ll find yourself connecting with others in no time!
SPEAKING OF A NETWORKING PLAN...DO YOU HAVE ONE?
The Contact Mapping app is your networking roadmap with step-by-step instructions to build a powerful and thriving network. Sign up today and see just how simple it is to use!