Wisdom//

Making Networking Work

6 ways to make the most of your coffee dates.

Victor Coscaron / EyeEm / Getty Images
Victor Coscaron / EyeEm / Getty Images

Experts point out the most successful people usually have the widest network. Some argue a social network is equivalent to a net worth. Because we live in a society of interdependence, you have a skill set and knowledge base that is valuable to others in your community.

How can we tap into the power of a robust social network? Here are some helpful tips for finding the right contacts and making the most of your interactions.

Find an Organic Connection 
There are many ways to place yourself near those who can impact you. A conversation with a stranger can spark new ideas or answer a question you have been pondering. Hobbies are excellent way to meet people who share your interests. Joining a book club, participating in a community garden, or taking a cooking class are proven ways to connect with others.

“Personally, I have a passion for animals. Volunteering at the animal rescue or attending fundraising events for this cause puts me in places where I am doing something I enjoy and making sincere connections.”

Meeting people with similar hobbies and passions is a great way to engage without social pressure.

Networking is a Skill 
Networking is a skill that takes courage and effort. It might be uncomfortable to attend events and mingle on your own. You might find it difficult to introduce yourself to strangers.

As with any other skill, repetition is the key to getting better. With practice, it becomes easier and more comfortable. Prepare an icebreaker and listen for ways to enter conversations. The more you try, the more you will succeed.

Rehearse a Pitch 
Create a casual, well-rehearsed pitch, about what you do and why. Say it with a smile and keep it short. Work on a few variations of your pitch so you can emphasize different aspects of you, or your work, relating to the other person. Use questions you find thought provoking to extend a conversation. Instead of asking about one’s job, ask about what someone is reading for pleasure.

Remember Names 
 It can be hard to remember names. Our brains only retain information we prioritize. Remembering names takes practice.

Use mnemonic devices. Associate a name with what the person does. Write it down after they walk away. Remembering a name shows appreciation and that can go a long way.

Networking is a Time Saver 
After a long day at the office, in the middle of the week, it can be hard to make it to a casual meeting across town. Often, however, once I arrive I realize the effort was worth it.

~Our individual assets go further when we collaborate.~

Do you have an entrepreneurial itch and a great idea, but aren’t sure where to start? Going to a meet-up and getting advice from other local business owners will go much further than staying home and googling how to start a business.

I once read a U.S. labor job report claiming one-third of all available positions never get posted to the public. Many companies prefer internal references. How do you get in? It really can be about who you know.

Pay it Forward 
We all need help. In giving, we receive. Something you say, your words of encouragement, can truly be illuminating to the people who need it. When you are willing to help and have the right attitude, opportunities arise.

If you are not sure how to break the ice with someone you want to know, offer your assistance. Chances are, they need it.

Summary 
Today is a great time to act on opportunities to help meet new people. We live in a competitive world. The pursuit of “social capital” can be an overwhelming thought.

I like to think of creating a network as nurturing relationships that are important to me. There can be something really beautiful about finding connections with a stranger. Connections enrich your community and stave off feelings of social alienation we all experience.

Plus, you never know what can happen when you put yourself out there and meet someone new.

Originally published on Medium.

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