Networking is one of the greatest challenges a consultant can face. While some enjoy it and do it flawlessly, it’s an anxiety-inducing grind for most.
Networking often produces surprises. Someone you thought was a strong ally might never return your call or message. Though unlikely, some have a fear that someone might even send you a nasty reply or block you on social media. And, on the positive side, a person with whom you thought you had a tenuous connection might be the one most interested in working with you or helping you.
There is no secret trick to networking. It requires work, dedication, and a fearlessness. A non-obvious (at least initially to me) thing to remember is networking is not just about interacting with people that might require your services. Many times an opportunity arises when someone you’ve contacted introduces you to someone you’ve never met. So it’s important to
It’s common to bifurcate your “contacts” into people who can help you in your career (i.e., networking opportunities) and friends and connections in unrelated fields (i.e., not worth bothering about your career), but doing so misses the opportunity to tap into their networks.
Reaching out to those friends and contacts perhaps requires some different messaging, but it can be just as important as the people in your “industry.” You truly never know where the next big opportunity may come from, so it’s well worth your time to cast a wide, but respectable, net.
Other networking tips
- Include some personal aspects in the email/communique (where they work, where you met) and please triple check to make sure you’re not reusing a previous email with incorrect info on there
- Don’t assume someone knows about your situation. You can reference they may know in a communique to you, but don’t fail to reach out because you think they saw a Tweet or LinkedIn post from you
- People do care about the result. If someone has introduced you to a contact, you don’t need to give your acquaintance a detailed blow-by-blow of every conversation you have had, but do let them know if it went anywhere or not. This is valuable information for them as well
- Did someone help you get some significant business or otherwise go beyond the call of duty for your benefit? Consider sending them something as a thank you.
- Keep a tracking document (or make notes in your contacts database) so you don’t drop the ball or fail to follow up