So far, we’ve talked about why networking is important, we’ve gained confidence around navigating professional networking events, and we are equipped with tactics on creating great conversation. I have to say, we are becoming quite the networker. Now isn’t the time to fall back into the comfort of being a recluse. Let’s make networking a habit that sticks.
Networking is no different than working out or eating healthy. Similarly, creating and developing relationships is not a one time act, but an ongoing process. Like all important things in life, it’s best to build healthy habits to make sure we are continuously maintaining momentum. We need to train ourselves to take certain actions each day until it becomes second nature.
The most skilled connectors will agree – it’s less about how you network but more about doing it regularly. So how do we make sure networking becomes a habit? First, let’s create a plan.
Creating a Plan
Here’s my suggestion: create a plan that outlines a networking ritual you will follow, but doesn’t overcomplicate and prevent you from following through. To give you an idea, this is what I do. I maintain an electronic list of people I want to stay connected with. Everyday I open up that list and reach out to one person. I’m consistently adding people I want to stay in contact with and after I’ve crossed off all of the names, I scrub the list and start over again.
I’m not recommending you follow my process. I’m simply suggesting you find a system that works for you. Designate one day a week to have lunch with a connection. Call a friend on your drive home from work. When you first pick up your phone in the morning, send a thoughtful text to someone you haven’t spoken to in awhile. It doesn’t matter what specific technique you use, just create a plan that leads you to the habit.
My Challenge to You
I enjoy seeking out events where I’ll meet new people, but if that isn’t your jam, don’t fret about it. Everyone has networking opportunities around them every day that they’re missing out on. Friends’ parties, family functions, children’s sporting activities, corporate training sessions…think about all of the organic events where you have the opportunity to meet someone new and continue to build relationships with those you don’t know well.
More often than not, we stay within our comfort zone. Gravitating toward our closest friends, hanging out with our spouse, sitting next to our teammates we work with every day. I’m not suggesting you leave them hanging, but I have a challenge for you.
Get in the habit of introducing yourself to people you don’t already know at every event that you attended. Even if it is just one person per event, you would drastically expand your network. If you want to take this challenge one step further, once a week, find an opportunity to get to know one of these new connections even better. Invite them out to get a coffee or a beer, walk with them during your child’s soccer practice, or see if they’d like to come over for dinner with their spouse.
Habits don’t stick because people get discouraged too early with the results and quit when they don’t see immediate benefits. Stop worrying about the payoff. Developing the habit of networking is a long-term investment. With a steady effort, the benefits will seem incremental but the cumulative impact will be significant. Get out of your comfort zone and put yourself out there to connect with others, formally and informally, on a regular basis.
Remember, excellence is not an act, but a habit.
This blog series is dedicated to helping you become better at connecting with new people, getting you excited about the uncomfortable, and making networking your competitive advantage. Don’t miss out on the rest of the series on networking, subscribe to my blog announcements here.
The Networking Playbook
The Art & Science of Staying Connected (coming soon)
Networking for Job Seekers (coming soonish)