I'm writing this article with an assumption that you want to grow in your career. It's impossible to accomplish this without other people. These could be collaborators, teammates, customers, suppliers, bosses, advisors, mentors, family, friends and most likely people you don't yet know. Yes, you read that correctly. Much of your growth should also be coming from people you don't know today. How will you get to know these people who will positively impact your career and whose careers you may have a positive impact on, too? Become an accomplished networker.
Some of you think networking won't work for you because you're shy, an introvert. I always tell my clients that it's critical that they get uncomfortable every day. If you're not willing to venture outside your comfort zone, how will you continue to grow? The more you venture outside of your comfort zone, the larger it becomes and the more you'll have opened up to new opportunities. So please don't dismiss networking, as it's an incredibly powerful tool, personally and professionally.
Begin with where you'll be most comfortable — your colleagues, friends, family and neighbors. Let the people in your personal network know about your goals, interests and aspirations. Ask if they know anyone who it would be beneficial for you to meet who could serve as a mentor, advisor or simply a great contact with like interests.
If you hear the word "no" several times, don't be discouraged. It's all about timing. When I ran a national sales team, I always told them that hearing "No" is a great thing, as that is one step closer to a "Yes" coming your way.
Conferences and networking events
Attend as many industry conferences and networking events as possible. A industry conference is a fantastic way to expand your network in your field. Remember that you are the chief marketing officer of your life so you must advocate for yourself and build your own personal brand. Again, this requires pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. The more people who can meet you and become familiar with your talents, skills and abilities, the more you'll increase your personal brand awareness, which will serve you well in your career.
If you're attending an industry conference with a colleague, don't use each other as a security blanket. You can attend plenary sessions together but split up and go to separate break-out sessions where you can meet new people. Always turn to the people next to you and introduce yourself. Always be equipped with plenty of business cards and always ask others for theirs in return. I make it a point to write a brief email to each person I met, letting them know how much I enjoyed meeting them. I add their contact information to my contacts and if your firm has one, add them to your company's Customer Relationship Management program. onnect with them on LinkedIn.
Speaking of LinkedIn
LinkedIn is an incredibly powerful tool and you should be leveraging it in every way possible. Remember, this is a social media platform that's focused on business relationships, something you continually want to grow throughout your career.
First things first: Create your profile. It should be highly professional and this should be taken very seriously, as this is your Internet marketing tool for building your personal brand. Your LinkedIn profile should expand on your resume. Set up a custom LinkedIn Profile URL with your name and include a professional picture.
Spend a little time on LinkedIn every day. Look through your current contacts and see if any of their contacts would be beneficial to you. Request an introduction to those people and expand your network. If they accept the connection, send them a LinkedIn message thanking them for connecting with you.
Join LinkedIn groups in your field. This is very important. One you're accepted into a group you have open access to contacting other group members with common interests and this can be huge for you. Leverage your alma mater by joining their groups and following them on LinkedIn.
Ask your contacts who know you if they would be willing endorse you for skills you have listed in your profile. Also ask those who have worked closely with you if they would write a recommendation for you. This will also appear in your profile. Do your best to master this platform by reading one of the numerous books on the best ways to utilize LinkedIn.
Remember, you're the one responsible for marketing yourself and building your personal brand. Networking is a skill you should be embracing as much as possible. Challenge yourself, get outside of your comfort one and rapidly expand your personal network. You won't regret it.