At 15, I landed in Canada from a land far, far away. The very same year, I got my first taste of entrepreneurship.
I started by converting the good ole’ paper forms to digitized databases for insurance agents. For an added fee, I also downloaded the data to a Palm V with automatic syncing. Fast forward 12 years and now the portfolio includes a manufacturing business, snow blower import business and most recently, a transmission repair shop.
Still, one of the hardest things that I ever had to teach myself was networking. Below are four beginner steps for networking:
No One Sits at Home and Networks
As scary as it may sound, networking requires one to meet people. It is entirely understandable that not everyone is a natural people person. But that is not to say that a little bit of effort and willingness to venture past our comfort zone cannot yield new opportunities. There are three very simple, yet effective, ways to meet new people and get past the initial inhibitions:
- Join your local community center. Just walk in ever so frequently and see their list of upcoming events. Sooner or later, some event of interest is bound to show up. The next step is simple – attend the event.
- Use social media to your advantage. If you have a Facebook profile, then surely you must receive some invites for events, certainly the mass invites. Those invites are sent out because those people would like you attend. For a change – attend one such event.
- You can also attend the place of your preferred worship if you have one – say a church or a temple. These places have historically served just the same purpose; i.e. to bring communities and their members together. There are always alternates to theological gatherings. However, the idea here is not to find like-minded people, but rather to leave one’s safe nest and venture out into the world of seven billion people – some of whom may be receptive your wildest and most outrageous ideas.
- Attend trade shows. Lots and lots of trade shows.
Eventually, your efforts would become increasingly targeted for networking. But it all has to start somewhere.
Create an Online Presence
With every sunrise, the world is a little more digital and a little more online then the night before. It is entirely unsurprising that more than 72 hours of video is uploaded on YouTube every minute; users on Twitter are now sending 200 million Tweets per day and Google adds several billion new web pages per day.
Consequently, whoever is not using the greatest resource mankind has ever conceived and created, the World Wide Web, they are sabotaging nearly all of their networking efforts. Why? Because the moment someone finds out about you or your business, it’s instinctive that they will look for you online and if you’re not online, then chances are that you just missed out on an opportunity.
So how do you go about doing that? For starters:
- Have a Facebook page.
- Have a LinkedIn page. But one that is filled with relevant details about where you stand today and where you intend to be in a few years time. Think from a recruiter’s perspective for a moment; nothing can be more frustrating when a recruiter “friends” you on LinkedIn and nothing relevant shows up.
- Not everyone needs a Twitter account, but if you or your business are positioned as such that you need one, then maybe it’s time to have a Twitter account and some real followers of your brand.
- Make sure you exist in specialty databases such as the Industry Canada’s Canadian Company Capabilities database (or your national equivalent) or contacts databases such as Jigsaw, Manta and Hoovers.
Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You
When you meet new people with the intent of networking, always remember that they are giving you their time because they too believe that you may hold something of value to them. Be ready to part with whatever they value in exchange for some future potential benefit. The benefit could be the company of your charming and exciting personality or the name of your former colleague who now heads the HR department in a Fortune 1000 company.
However, there exists a thin, but important, line between being a narcissist and a moocher. Never, ever get labeled as a moocher or freeloader. It may take years, if not a lifetime, to get rid of such a label. One simple way of avoiding such a label is by not being disingenuous when you meet new people or make new contacts. Let them know of your intent from the start.
Always Stand Out
When anyone enters a room, they must stand out. Always stand out if the other attendees are to remember you. Remember, people will meet your brand long before they meet you. Therefore, your brand must reel them in so they can meet the truly awesome person that you are.
The real lesson here is that networking isn’t easy. It’s not supposed to be easy. Let’s face it. Anything worth doing isn’t easy and if it is – chances are, it’s not worth doing.
Beginner Business Networking Photo via Shutterstock