This group of Power Tips is compiled from a discussion in one of the Work It, Mom! forums, and tips from the members themselves. The forums are full of great nuggets like this-- and we are starting to group them into Power Tips here, but the best way to be on top of these things is to participate in the discussions themselves!
How do you start networking and building contacts for yourself?Online networking:
- Find some blogs written by people in your field/industry and become part of the conversation. Post relevant comments, respond to other comments, ask good questions. It takes time, but you will then become part of this blog's community and can meet people who might be good for your network.
- Ask people for advice. What you can do is send an email to a person whose comment you liked or found relevant and ask them if they would have a short bit of time to talk to you about their (job/career/expertise/insert here whatever the purpose of this part of your networking is.) Also, don't hesitate to email the blog author directly and ask for feedback on something/a question about developing your career/writing/whatever fits your life at that time.
- The key to networking is to do this on an ongoing basis and establish these relationships slowly.
- Another important aspect of networking is giving something back to your contacts. So say you had an email exchange with someone - send them an email later on with a link to a site they might find interesting, or a book, blog, video, article, etc.
Using Work It, Mom!:
- Check out some mom's profiles and read about their careers. Leave them a post on their profile or send a message with a question you might have.
- Comment on articles written by other members and/or send them a private message saying you liked the article and here is a follow-on question.
- Post questions/thoughts/topics on forums or in Q&A and connect with professional moms that way. After a good exchange with someone, send them a message through Work It, Mom! with a follow up question, comment, or resource for them.
- Find one event in your area that is relevant for your professional career. Sign up and go. Before you go, try to find at least one person who is also going and "virtually" meet them beforehand - this will make the event easier. At the event, take a deep breath and make a goal for yourself to meet 2 new people. A great place to do this is around the food/drinks area, if there is one. You can start by talking about silly things like the food and then introduce yourself and take the conversation from there. Follow up after the event with people you met.
- Join a professional organization Find out what kinds of professional organizations are available for your career or industry. Even just paying a one-year membership gives you a professional affiliation for your resume, and also it provides you with a list of other members, which is an invaluable contact tool.
- Never pass up an opportunity to network. When someone says "what do you do", tell them and then explain why it might be relevant to them. Here is an example: Trudi publishes a magazine for women online. When she meets a man and tells them what she does, she pulls out a bookmark (she uses that instead of a business card so you can "bookmark" her site) and hand it over with a "Pass this on to the woman in your life - it will make her feel good about herself. And you'll look so in touch with her needs!" and they laugh a little and the men ask a few more questions. They may not be her readership, but he is connected to potential readers, so she makes the most of making an impression on him.
- Have simple business cards. You don't need to have all of your career ideas well-defined to start making great contacts that can help you. But you should probably have something other than the back of a grocery store receipt to give people with your contact information. Check out Sheryl's post that has some great resources for getting business cards.
- Ask others what they do. Don't forget to make the person you are talking to feel important. Ask them what they do! How can YOU be a potential contact for them? It's a two-way street. Ask them for their card, don't just give out yours. Ask them: "Can you tell me who would be your client? That way I can make a good referral for you."
- Follow up! When you get someone's business card, contact them in 24 to 48 hours. Email is fine. Just say "It was nice to meet you. I have your card handy and I'll be sure to let people know who you are. Please keep me in mind when you meet (fill in the criteria of who is a good referral for you). Hope to see you at (networking event)."