When you’re busy juggling your work and your personal life, networking often slips to the bottom of the to-do list. Meeting new people and putting yourself out there takes a lot of time and energy.
Yet it’s astonishing how quickly you can fall out of touch if you fail to maintain your current professional connections―while continuously adding new ones to the pipeline.
This is bad for your business and your career at large. After all, you never know when you might need help landing a new client or a new job. That’s why it’s important to find painless ways to integrate networking into your daily life.
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Send out a “who should I meet?” email.
Last time you were on the hunt for a new job, you may have sent out a “help me find a job!” email to family, friends and connections. Relying on your network is always the best way to search for work, since companies are more likely to offer a position to someone with a personal connection.
But leveraging your network shouldn’t stop there. If you’re trying to jumpstart your networking game or simply add a few more contacts to your rolodex, consider sending out an email to your network asking for their help.
The email should state your objective very clearly, for example “I’m looking to network with professionals in the startup space — do you know anyone I should meet?” and end with a gracious offer to return the favor: “And it goes without saying, if there is anything I can do for you, please let me know.”
2. Give first.
That leads us to our next recommendation. When you have the opportunity to give back, take it.
Remember how grateful you felt when that older family friend helped you land your first real job? Chances are, they helped out not because they felt they had to, but because it feels good to help others.
On top of the good vibes, piling up the good deeds boosts your position in the community by painting you as someone who is in the position to help others, i.e. someone in a position of power.
3. Start your own networking group.
It’s no secret, networking events can be a major drag. You find yourself in a crowded ballroom, watered-down cocktail in hand, scanning the room for someone who looks like they might be a good connection to have. Maybe you’ll meet a few people worth following up with but chances are, you’ll leave after an hour feeling like you just wasted a perfectly good Tuesday night.
Creating your own event is an excellent way to solve this dilemma. To make it happen, contact 5-10 of the most talented, interesting people you know and ask them to meet you at a specified location with one person they feel will add to the conversation. The goal is to bring together a group of people that can all benefit from meeting one another.
Your friends will thank you and you will further demonstrate your position as a leader in the community.
4. Capitalize on what your city has to offer.
No one wants to post up in a stuffy ballroom or conference room when the sun is shining. Sometimes the best networking happens when you’re having fun.
Rather than seek out events labeled as “networking,” seek out opportunities to enjoy the activities your area has to offer alongside like-minded individuals and let the networking happen naturally.
If you’re in Boulder, Colorado, for example, you can join the the Wednesday Morning Velo, a weekly business networking bike ride that starts with coffee at Amante. Other cities favor golf or tennis for relaxation and conversation. No matter which hobby you choose, make it worth your while by taking the time to meet new people.
5. Learn a new skill.
Often it’s not the number of connections we have that’s holding us back, it’s the variety. You might have dozens of contacts to call on in the CRE community, but very few in the tech world. One of the best ways to solve for this challenge is to learn a new skill.
Learning a new skill takes you outside of your comfort zone and allows you to meet new people.
For example, if you’re looking to expand your knowledge of technology in order to relate to your silicon valley clients, you could take a basic coding course through general assembly. Or, if you want to beef up on your marketing skills, consider attending a marketing conference. Chances, are you will be the only commercial real estate professional these new connections know, meaning you will be the first to call if and when they need help with a deal.