Are you networking strategically?
When I was in my early twenties I had a supervisor tell me to be in as many organizations and boards as possible to “network.” I signed up for nine boards and was super busy running to all of the meetings. Each week my schedule was super full and I felt very important because I was sooooo busy.
Here’s the thing I quickly realized by going to all of those meetings. Very little was accomplished at the meetings that could have been a well thought out email. Most of the networking was complaining about things they wanted changed, but we’re willing to change. I’d sit there wondering how this was helping me grow my reputation or our organization, and I could not figure it out. If anything, being on all of these boards and networking full-time was taking me away from my goal of doing a great job at my work.
After I left that position I gave up networking completely. I was networked out and each time someone invited me to a networking event I’d politely say no. Instead I would take the time I could be networking and I’d build my business, write a useful article, record a podcast, work on my next book, read books, go on a hike, prepare a training, or get my nails done.
Eventually, I started to network again, but this time I did it very intentionally.
I found three key types of people to network with:
1. Look for a mentor.
Who specifically do I need to connect with to grow my business and learn from? (This person is ahead of me about 5-10 years) Mentors are important because they can help you navigate within your business and avoid obstacles. The ideal mentor is someone who sees your potential and has the time and energy to help you go to the next level. I’ve had mentors from the same industry and different industries, I think both are beneficial, but if you really want to learn about your specific business find a mentor in your industry to guide you.
2. Look for a Peer.
Who would I like to mastermind with or have as a thinking partner? (This person is at the same level as me.) Running companies can be lonely, but when you are able to find a Peer you can know there is someone in your corner that understands what you are dealing with. Whether you are experiencing growing pains or an awesome win this person wants the best for you. I have an accountability partner who I meet with on a monthly basis to check in with. Our goal is to listen, encourage, and brainstorm together.
3. Look for a mentee.
Who would I help learn what I know? (This person is 5-10 years behind your level in business) As you start to grow your company, it’s likely that you will have someone ask you how you did it, this may be your mentee. This person is hungry to learn and apply the lessons you’ve learned to grow your business. As you teach them from your experiences, it’ll help you reflect on your skills and abilities and enhance your expertise in the field.
As you strategically plan your networking you’ll be amazed at how quickly you start to grow both personally and professionally. When you have a mentor, you’ll learn about what the next steps are for your business and life by coming to each meeting prepared to learn and grow. Your mentor will help you focus on becoming the best version of yourself so you can grow to the next level. When you find a peer to think/mastermind with you’ll start to see possibilities that you did not before. Bring your list of projects and ideas to this meeting and be ready to brainstorm ideas. And when you start to teach what you know to someone who is still learning, you’ll grow even more. To this meeting ask questions and listen. Your job is to help the other person in their journey.
If I could give you one piece of advice for this year is to eliminate the thought that you need to network all the time. You actually should be very intentional about where and who you are spending your time with. You need to network strategically. Find specific people you want to connect with and connect with them. It doesn’t have to be a regular meeting.