I have come to realize that the world is very small place. Forget the 6° of separation…with LinkedIn and other technology it’s more like two degrees. If we are that close to (and yet that far from) each other why is it we still fear networking?
I have a new friend in Florida. She has just relocated from Denver (where she and I had not met) and had stumbled across an old LinkedIn answer that I had posted offering to share my experience of launching a new business. That post was in 2008. She contacted me to see if I would be willing to share my experience with her. Absolutely! We had a great conversation, found we had plenty in common and I am confident that we will be staying in touch. Her main question (after the “how do I start/build my business?”) was “How do I network when I don’t know anyone?”
Here are the three key insights I shared:
1) You have to get out there. This is not the time to be shy. Check out the local “meetup” groups that match your interests. Join the local chamber of commerce, seek out the local chapter of your professional organization. Reach out to your existing network and ask them for introductions to their connections in your new neighborhood. There are so many ways to get out and about and start making new connections if you get past the “fear of being new”. The critical step is walking out the front door, and into the meeting room.
2) Have a Plan. Decide before you walk in the room how many new connections you are going to make. It will encourage you to walk up to “strangers” and introduce yourself. Have a quick introduction ready to go. Ask questions about your new contact, why they are at the event, what they have found useful from this group, then LISTEN to their reply. Don’t be afraid to ask for introductions, “I’m new in town, who else do you think I need to meet?”
3) Follow up. The reality is most people don’t follow up after making new connections. A LinkedIn request is great, a thank you card (which my new friend sent me) goes the extra mile. Make sure that you send a personal note, include any information you offered, and also make a commitment to “give you a call in [insert appropriate timeline]”. If they introduced you to someone in their network, circle back after that conversation to let them know how it went and to say “thank you”.
Remember, you are only one conversation away from realizing your dreams, or at least, taking a step closer to realizing your dreams. Take a deep breath, extend your hand, smile and say “hello”.