Strategic & Serendipitous Networking
You want to grow your career opportunities and your connections, right? (And if you aren’t, I'm curious why you're even reading this blog...) While you may not particularly enjoy some of the more traditional ways of networking, like going to events or trade shows, finding ways of meeting new people consistently can be a great way to generate leads, which, in turn, will help you to be successful. Like the old saying goes: your net worth is determined by your network, so, let’s dig into two ways of thinking about networking that way you can always keep an eye out for the opportunities to make new connections.
Strategic networking is a concept based on finding and reaching others whom can help facilitate your end goal. As the name suggests, strategic networking involves creating a plan, or strategy, that will help you to network with the right people. There are several areas to consider when developing your networking strategy, such as knowing who to talk to, researching prospective candidates, and creating warm introductions.
• Knowing Who to Talk To – When you are trying to establish connections for networking purposes, finding the right source is crucial. A great place to start is within your own company. Check with your colleagues to see if they know of anyone that has connections within the industry. In addition, it is worth reaching out to pre-established connections, as they may be willing to help, knowing that it will be reciprocated down the road. In the end, all it takes is meeting one person with multiple connections, which could open up many other doors.
• Researching Connections – In the technology driven age in which we live, researching connections can be as simple as getting on the internet and searching the profiles of prospective candidates. With websites like LinkedIn and Facebook, it is possible to review information, such as a person’s background, work history, and hobbies. These items can all be used to determine whether the person meets the criteria that you are looking for and the best ways to make an initial connection.
• Creating Warm Introductions – All too often, networking opportunities are squandered because the conversation gets off to a bad start, and therefore creating a warm introduction is a must. If you are reaching out to someone through e-mail or social media, refrain from using a “cookie-cutter” introduction, and instead make the message more personable. Likewise, if you are meeting a person 1-on-1, for instance, as through a referrer, start the conversation by making a more casual connection before moving toward the reason for your outreach.
• Networking Events – One of the most powerful, and for many people, least enjoyed, means of making connections is by attending networking events. These gatherings allow you to interact with other people within the industry, and they provide ample opportunity to create new connections. If you are attending an event, try to separate yourself from the pack by letting the uniqueness of your personality shine through, and stay confident. In addition, focus on making each interaction count, rather than trying to meet as many individuals as possible. Once the event has concluded, make a list of the connections that were made, and follow-up with those connections within 24 hours, to show them that you are serious.
Unlike strategic networking, where one implements a plan to seek out connections, serendipitous networking is based on networking connections that occur by happenstance. These connections can occur anywhere, such as the coffee shop, gym, or grocery store. And while you cannot predict when a serendipitous networking opportunity will arise, there are a few points that are worth consideration.
• Talk to Strangers - The idea of talking with a complete stranger makes many people uncomfortable, but the fact is, it can be vital in creating connections. You never know when the chance for a lead may present itself, and by talking with as many people as possible, you will increase the likelihood of a conversation leading to a business opportunity. Here are some tips.
• Get Out There - One of the primary concepts behind serendipitous networking is being in the right place at the right time. You cannot stay cooped up in an office all day and expect people to come to you. Instead, make it a point to get out and socialize.
• Have Business Cards Ready - The nature of serendipitous moments means that they occur without warning, and often there is not adequate time to exchange details. By having business cards at the ready, you can provide others with your name and contact information in an instant.
As you can tell, there are several different networking ideas to consider when trying to generate leads and build contacts, and each has qualities that can help increase your connections. When implementing a networking plan, keep in mind that moments of serendipity may bring about chance meetings with those who could be strategically important. Keep these networking tips in mind, make a plan, and be prepared for your opportunities to skyrocket!
Shawn Parrotte is the Marketing Manager of Designli, a software development agency specializing in delivering certainty to the world of custom mobile and web applications. In his spare time, Shawn teaches music and loves to dabble in photography.