Hopefully, someday very soon, we will be able to resume our lunches, happy hours, dinners, and social networking activities. Even the always-awkward professional events with hand-written name tags have some appeal now that we can’t do them. However, there are still so many fun and easy ways to network from home.
Everybody knows networking is critical to professional success and yet no other topic creates as many eye-rolls, moans of despair, and excuses. I get it! I also once believed that my work should just speak for itself. Yet I’m sure that you have observed that those who get ahead in life are not necessarily the best at what they do or those that work 60 hours a week toiling away alone. Successful people are most often the ones who understand the power of networking and the importance of relationship building.
If that’s not motivation enough, let me also remind you that relationships with people can be a great sense of joy. Many believe that this is our main purpose in life: human connection! If that’s a stretch for you, at least agree that it’s people that give us the opportunities we get in life. Remember all the times that someone took a chance on you, promoted you, recommended you, etc.
Any way you look at it, networking is a critical skill to hone for professional and personal success. The secret is to network consistently not just when you need a favor. The best practice is to network every single day both deepening your existing relationships and establishing new ones.
I have 12 ideas for you that range from easy ways to network within your network to bold and creative ways to expand your contact base. They are loosely ordered from easy to bolder with an acknowledgment that we each have different levels of social comfort.
Please review these networking options with an open mind and commitment to stretch outside your comfort zone:
1 Share Something of Value
This is the simplest one. When you read an article with interesting insights, find a valuable new app, a cool new resource, or even see a meme that makes you laugh out loud, share it! Simply send it along and let the person know that they were on your mind.
2 Say Thank You Out of the Blue
Go back to favorite teachers, coaches, or your first boss to your strongest allies today. Nothing makes your day and someone else’s day special like showing sincere gratitude.
3 Ask People You Are Networking with For Introductions
This is an easy and powerful one that many people overlook. When talking with someone ask if there are other people that they would recommend you meet. This works for job searching, business development, marketing partnerships— pretty much everything. Always be mining your network.
4 Shopping Your Contact List
This simple one can be full of fun surprises. It’s like finding a treasure deep in your closet that you forgot you had. Simply scroll through your connections on Linkedin and other social media. There are bound to be a ton of people that you realize you miss. Don’t worry about how much time has passed. They will welcome a reconnection and likely have exciting updates to share.
5 Write and Publish a Linkedin Post
I am always surprised by how shy my clients are about this one. A professional networking platform is for sharing news and tips plus requesting input and advice. Even if you dislike social media, doing posts (and responding to others’) on Linkedin is a professional imperative.
6 Create an Email List
This one takes some effort but very worth the time. An email list is an efficient way to share news or request support broadly. Even if you just use the list to send holiday messages, ensure you have a solid email database of your professional contacts.
7 Send A Message to Someone at Your Dream Companies
This idea does take a bolder moment. Networking with strangers can be quite an adventure. Linkedin Premium is way worth the money. This lets you communicate directly with people at your dream companies doing your dream jobs. Even if you are in a role you love, you should be building a network, sharing best practices, and discussing business partnership ideas regularly.
8 Join A Facebook or Slack Community
There is a Facebook community for everything. Hobbies are a great way to build authentic relationships. There are also specific professional groups on Facebook and sites like Slack. Joining groups that exist is a fun and easy way to connect with strangers you don’t yet know who have similar interests.
9 Sign Up for An Online Course or Webinar
Win-win with this one. Meet interesting growth-minded people interested in the same things you are PLUS learn something new. Coursera is a great resource for this. Or just Google.
10 Try Meet Up or Lunch Club
There are lots of new apps and services that connect people. I just joined Lunch Club. It’s kind of like a dating app in that they connect you to people based on a profile you create. You also can get very specific about your goals for networking and when you are available. So, so easy and I have met very inspiring professionals I would not encounter in my regular circles.
11 Create A Mastermind Group
This is such a fun bonding and super productive use of time. Just select a provocative topic to tackle and people you believe would benefit from spending discussion time together. I hosted a happy hour that turned into a very savvy session on supporting each other with our side hustles.
12 Host And / Or Attend Workshops Via Eventbrite
This is a good one if you want to share your advice, tips, or talents. I recently hosted a career advice workshop and I have attended events for friends who are musicians and comedians. You can establish yourself as an authority on a topic. You can also learn all kinds of new things and be entertained for free or at reasonable rates.
I hope you discovered some new ideas you are excited to try. Let me know which ones you think will be easy and which ones scare you a little. I hope you try the ones that will stretch you because that’s where the real growth occurs. Please also share via comments other ideas that have worked for you.
I assure you that connecting with other people will make your day and theirs much happier and more productive. A regular networking practice is mission-critical if you want to maximize your career potential.
It’s time to make networking a daily habit. Have fun maintaining, building, and expanding your relationships.