We are going to start with a couple of questions. Do you network? Are you confident in your networking skills? What would networking do for you professionally?
Now let's talk about networking for a few minutes. Why, because it is important and it is one of the main benefits of being a NAPO Ohio member. The more confident you are in doing it, the better your experience will be and the more you get out of your experience.
Networking is the act of meeting new people in a business or professional context. It is common for there to be an exchange of information or ideas. It can also become a source for referrals or collaborations. I don’t know about you, but that sounds important to me. Especially since entrepreneurs often work alone, networking can prevent you from feeling isolated. Great, so its important how do you get better at it?
First, I don’t consider myself an expert, so if you want to grow in networking you may want to explore the topic with additional resources. That said my personal journey should give everyone hope that you can grow in the networking skill. I considered myself weak in the skill and if I am being completely honest, I had a lot of negative talk around it. The thing I loathed the most, phone calls – wasn’t a fan. The first obstacle I faced was overcoming my thoughts and ideas about my own networking performance. If this sounds like you, you aren’t alone. You can absolutely turn your mindset around!
If you have decided to get better at networking, set a goal. I started with professional social media reach outs. LinkedIn, Alignable and NAPO Point are professional platforms you can use to network. Set a goal of time spent on the platform and/or number of messages you send out. It helps to have a plan of the businesses or professions you would like to network with. It focuses your efforts and makes the process more efficient.
Next, I tackled phone calls and then in person meetings. Since I don’t feel comfortable cold calling, making calls was the second step of my plan, which helped me overcome my mental block. Set a goal of calls per week. Calls usually are around 15 minutes in length. Before making the call identify what you can share and what you might receive. Are you looking for advice, feedback, or to share a client base? Be clear about what you are looking for and be open to share what could be of value to the other person.
Finally, in person (or virtual face to face) meetings. Phone calls are good, but for me in person is where it is at. Set a goal of meetings per month. Come prepared with some relevant questions and business material. You will also want to be prepared to take notes. You want to remember important information and note inspiration when it strikes. It is also important to follow up on any actions you have committed to after the meeting and to send a thank you to the person for their time.
NAPO Ohio is a great place to network. We have shared passions and professions. The contact information for members and business partners are available to you on our NAPO Ohio Site. If you’re shy, start with social media or an e-mail. Comment on NAPO Ohio social media posts; I call this digital networking. When we are in person again, make a point to introduce yourself to one or two members and have a short conversation. Volunteer to be a buddy for a prospective or new member. Most importantly, take action today.
The most important thing I learned when I decided to get better at networking, because I felt like my business success depends on it, is that taking action is the most important thing you can do to affect change. I challenge you to take action now on one or two things you can do to improve your networking skills in the next month. I know you can do it. Now raise you arms up and say out loud, “I am a networking champ”!