Most people in business — from small business owners to executives at publicly traded companies — understand the importance of networking. That’s why on any given day there are literally thousands of networking events taking place throughout the country. Whether you are a small business owner trying to make a name for yourself or a company executive working to establish and grow new and existing professional relationships, networking is a fundamental aspect of your job.
Unsurprisingly, networking often takes place outside of “normal” business hours, i.e. your “own time”. If you embrace this fact, you’ll find that there is a multitude of ways that you can network your business effectively. The following are five suggestions to get you started:
Attend local events in your town
Most people know that large cities have lots of networking events. This makes sense, since there are usually hundreds (if not thousands or tens of thousands) of people in the same (or related) industries. However, you don’t necessarily have to work (or live) in a large city to find networking events and opportunities. Even small cities — for example the suburb you commute from each morning — often have networking events hosted by the Chamber of Commerce or similar organizations. Best of all, these organizations are often more accessible, and the participants more receptive, than you might find in a busy, high-demand event in a big city.
Be active on social media
Believe it or not, social media has become a viable — and in some cases essential — networking strategy for many business owners and in a growing number of industries. There are a number of significant advantages that platforms like Twitter offer, and arguably the biggest is the fact that you can literally reach a worldwide audience from your computer or smartphone. In addition, hashtags and other organizational tools on social media make it easier to find like-minded individuals, or even clients and customers.
Social media also works as a supplement to other networking strategies. For example, many conferences and industry events will utilize a hashtag or social media page — if it makes sense, you can post and reach out to others through that channel as well.
Become involved in charities and non-profits
You don’t have to stick to events and conferences that directly relate to your industry. Getting involved in a charity or non-profit is a great way to meet people who have similar values as you, all while working to help a cause you both believe in. Find a charity that you feel passionate about, and the networking conversations you have will happen almost on their own!
Build long-term relationships with people you meet both in and out of work
You never know who could be a valuable networking asset at some point in the road. Whenever you meet someone, whether in a professional or personal setting, try to establish a relationship that can stand the test of time. Try not to alienate people, and if you think later find a mutually beneficial opportunity don’t be afraid to reach out.
Start a blog
Not everyone feels confident writing, or has the time to write in a blog on a regular basis, but if you have the time and ability, this is a great way to build a small following. If you can establish yourself as a thought-leader — or at least as someone with interesting things to say — you can network by letting people reach out to you simply because they want to share or comment on your thoughts.
These are just some ideas to get started. Try taking one of these ideas and running with it — you never know what opportunities you might create for yourself! And if you need someone to cover your phones while you’re out of the office networking, try our remote receptionist services!