Your network is essential to your career. Like a tree with multiple branches, it reaches out to connect with the world. Unlike a tree, however, growing your network can be hard work. Don’t you wish there was a way to make network expansion easier?
To help that “easier” thing happen, we asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) for their advice on personal network expansion…
Connect Right After Meeting
You would be surprised how many different types of people you meet each day. So many of them you meet only once. I find that it’s important to connect with them on social media right after you meet them so you give yourself the opportunity to stay in touch and build the relationship.
The best way make personal network expansion easier? By introducing people in your network with each other. You will quickly realize not only does this help you improve your relationship with existing folks in your network, but the reciprocity factor of introductions will help you grow your network a lot faster.
Befriend Your Competitors
Many of my most treasured contacts are those who have been working with competitors. They are facing similar challenges, and you would be surprised what you are both willing to share once you let down you competitive veil.
Actively Use Professional Social Networks
Just because you are on social networks like LinkedIn doesn’t mean your network will just grow automatically. You need to search for industry colleagues or other people that may help you with your professional objectives. Then, you need to contact them and connect online or offline through events. Communication is the key to expanding a network, so even commenting on other’s posts helps.
Cold Call Social Media
One of the greatest things about social media is how well it allows you access to just about anyone. If I want to talk to the biggest people in any industry, there’s a pretty good chance that they, or someone who answers to them, is wandering around Twitter. Take advantage of the ease of access to the greatest minds of today by engaging them. The worst they can do is ignore you.
Reconnect and Ask
I make it a habit to reach out to at least one person each day with whom I’ve not spoken in some time. Best, I ask how I can help and be a resource to them in some way or ask them to set up a meeting or call to catch up. When people trust you and you give first without expectation of something in return, it’s natural and warranted to ask your contact to connect you with someone in their network.
Never Eat Alone
I read a great book called “Never Eat Alone.” It touches on the fact that since you are going to eat lunch every day, you might as well join someone to eat with! I have lunch lined up with entrepreneurs every day. It builds close relationships and you can share resources. I have learned a tremendous amount from doing this and I’ve made amazing friends and business associates.
Rapportive is a free Chrome extension that links to your email and also connects with LinkedIn. This way, you can build strategic relationships with prospects and new people right from your inbox and, in turn, build your network faster and more efficiently.
Join a Professional Organization
Professional organizations exist for practically everything. Whether you’re looking to meet people by trade, age or location, a quick Google search should provide several options in your area or nationwide. The best communities integrate both in-person and online events to help foster collaboration and communication on multiple levels.
During the last two years, I went to local events to meet people in my industry. I made a point of attending meet and greets, trade shows, conventions and anything else available on my limited schedule. It was draining at times, but I’ve never in my years in business been able to pick up so many juicy contacts so quickly.
Give Before You Get
The best way to connect with people who perhaps wouldn’t normally connect with you is by giving. Give them time, or volunteer to help them or a cause they are associated with. You’ll feel good (about yourself), make a difference and build your network!
Offer to Buy Your Contact Lunch
Most people shrug off emails/calls from unknowns, but there’s a pocket of folks who don’t, and who are looking for the same thing. Look at what you need professionally and find the names of the people who are succeeding (through lists like Forbes 30 Under 30, or from trades), and just reach out and offer to buy them lunch. This has worked extremely well for me.
Find a local entrepreneur, startup, tech or whatever kind of group on Meetup.com and go meet some like-minded individuals in your area. When it comes to making personal network expansion much easier, nothing beats face-to-face interaction.
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Business Collective.
Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.