“A rising tide lifts all boats,” wise words from former President John F.Kennedy and the presence and spirit felt throughout the Rising Tide Society. But, it’s more than a feel-good mantra; it is a foundation for which I, along with others, have found the potential within. Making your own way is hard. VERY HARD. Why? As I’m sure you know, there are many ebbs and flows in the ocean of opportunity, the ripple effect isn’t always reciprocal, and the tides don’t always turn in our favor. Don’t even get me started on the sharks in the water. Yes, I’m looking at you algorithms and anonymous inquiry emails. All of the reasons are why I believe meaningful networking to be one of the best approaches to making progress in professional and personal pursuits.
For the sake of analogies and all things nautical, I like to think of the friends I’ve made through The Rising Tide Society as the fleet which helps me sail well beyond what I could alone. When we need someone to save our sanity, SOS small business owner style, it helps to have a network to turn to for help. So, how do you navigate networking? Below, I share a few tips and tricks that I’ve found useful in upping my networking strategy.
How can someone support you if they can’t see you? To be visible, you have to be vulnerable. I know it’s tough, but it’s more than worth it. When don’t show up, you are holding yourself back from opportunities. As an introvert, one thing that’s worked well for me is taking the time to see who else is planning to come to an event. I find comfort in knowing I’ll know a least one person, even if it’s a person I have yet to meet “IRL” – in real life. Social media networking sites make it easy to access to attendee information. Give it a try. Introduce yourself in advance, and it’ll seem less intimidating to show up to an event solo. Yes, you could always bring a friend to tag along, but if you don’t challenge one another to go out and mix, meet, and mingle with others you won’t get the most value out of the event.
I have missed many opportunities because I failed to follow-up. For me ideation and introductions come easy, it’s the follow-up that brings on the fear. Whether it’s fear of not living up to an idea I proposed or a project not panning out as I intended, my doubts can stop in my tracks of doing. Don’t let this happen to you. Perfectionism leads to procrastination and wasted potential. First follow-up, then work together to figure it out.
Networking is about giving just as much, if not more than it is about receiving. Being a good giver starts with being a good listener. People tend to give you insight on what they need if you allow them. Challenge yourself listen with intention and attention. The difference between being salesey and slimy and of service to someone is the ability to connect the dots. The best way to connect the dots is by crafting a solution based on meaningful conversation.
I’m not one for small talk or mindless banter. However, I always have something to say. How is that? I keep up with what is going on in the industry and with the people I want to get to know. Time is valuable, talk is cheap, but rich conversations are everything. It is so much easier to initiate a conversation when you have great starters. So whether it’s taking note of trending topics, pursuing the pages of the latest and greatest best seller, or doing a little social stalking pre-event, prepare yourself. When you are prepared, you can position yourself to give and receive.
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want and need. While you should start with what you can offer or how you can help others, it’s more than okay to make your needs known. When you surround yourself with people who get you, chances are they are more than willing to help. Just remember when you ask for help you need to be clear and direct. Be respectful of other’s time. If you need a referral, be specific with your request. You don’t have to give someone a project brief, but at least give them enough information so they can lead you down the right path.
So, if you do all of the above, it’ll all come together, right? I wish it were that simple. Emails can go unopened and voice mails unheard, but you have to keep going. Instant gratification rarely leads to sustained success. When things aren’t going so great, keep going. When things couldn’t get any better, keep going (it can always get better). Networking isn’t a one and done, once a month, use and abuse activity, it works in a cycle, and it works best when powered by effort and energy. Okay, let’s hear it! How do you plan to up your networking game? I’m curious to know. Remember networking is about serving others and allowing them to serve you as well.