Networking Goes Beyond Exchanging Business Cards

Two ideas to expand your business horizons

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I got a call from a former coaching client who I have not spoken to in nearly three years.  Her email made me smile about the work we did together and her willingness to reach out for assistance after all the time that has passed.  Our call focused on her changing circumstances and, consequently, a need for a new approach to achieve her current goals.  What does this have to do with networking?  Everything.

Networking is really about building and fostering relationships.  Relationships in your organization, relationships with other industry professionals, and relationships with colleagues and acquaintances with no connection to your professional work at all.  There are real benefits to sharpening your networking skills.  For some it happens naturally without even noticing.  For others, it requires conscious effort that might seem daunting.  Let’s consider some ways to build out a network of people who will help, advise, consult, listen, guide, mentor, or challenge you and for whom you would do the same.

Find Your Affinity Groups

Whether you are a member of a specific affinity group within your organization or an ally of the group, joining and engaging with those members is an excellent way to expand your professional network.  That also extends to the affinity groups within NAWIC or other business and civic associations.  I have had the pleasure of meeting with the Women Business Owners and the Business Development Council in the past few months.  Each group has a different perspective and challenges being addressed.  Most members likely could and should consider the other members as resources and part of their network of “go to” people.  Find the groups that align with your interests.

Reconnect with Friends and Colleagues

The past two years have reinforced the importance of remaining connected.  For some it was managing the isolation and for others some escapism from having everyone at home – all the time – and juggling multiple roles.  Through a business development lens, it is easier to get work from existing clients who know and trust you.  Your network is no different.  Reconnecting is easier than forming new connections (though both are important).  Don’t be shy about sending an email or text just to check in and see how they are doing.  This will reduce any anxiety about reaching out when you have a specific need or “ask.”  

I was proud and touched that my former client would ask for a call to talk about her current situation.  I am glad that I am part of her network, and it makes me wonder how many others are out there who see me the same way.  I hope the number is much larger than I might imagine.  After all the time working with NAWIC, speaking with members, attending the annual conference, and supporting the different councils, I hope that you would consider me part of your network and would feel comfortable asking for a call.  

As always, you can reach me at MRiegel@AECBusinessStrategies.com.