I’ve never been a fan of ‘networking’. The sort of networking where you enter a room, cockily stride up to someone, hand outstretched, and tell them your name which is neatly reinforced by the dinky name tag on your chest, that is.
Not that large networking events aren’t fantastic. I go to them quite often, often meet people that are interesting and always learn something. But I can’t say any of the people I’ve met at these type of events have made long-term contributions to my career or the success of my business.
The people that have are the people I’ve picked up along the way. You know, the girl you worked with for a few months before she went on to another industry, your Mum’s best friend, who just opened a coffee shop, your old boss, the guy who used to do the photography for your favourite client, your lecturer, etc.
When I started littleBig Marketing & PR the first thing I did was send an email to EVERYONE I knew – that is friends, family, colleagues, suppliers, etc. – past, present and prospective. I let them know what I was setting out to do and encouraged them to get in touch if they or anyone they knew might need my services. Within one week of sending it that email generated my first three clients. You could say it generated every new client from then on also, thanks to word of mouth and the experience gained from the connections it instigated.
See I never realised the strength of my network until I tapped into it. And tapping into your existing network is even easier now thanks to social marketing tools such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
I guess the moral of the story is, don’t stress out about networking, networking, networking. Your network is developing everyday without you even trying. Just endevour to create and maintain good relationships in every area of your life and you’ll have a fabulous network – no awkward conversation required.