This is a guest post by Vicky Oliver.
In today’s virtually connected world, anyone who thinks that building a network of business prospects or promoters is only a matter of beefing up their social media profile is losing out. Amassing LinkedIn connections or blasting out tweets alone don’t usually lead to fruitful results with the professionals you’re hoping to tap into.
True, face-to-face networking can be intimidating and time consuming, especially for those who are more comfortable being loners. But building your network can be greatly increased when you take up with a person who already has developed a massive professional and social network.
Your charge is to ferret out this “connector” in the crowd and befriend that person. Connectors know exponentially more people than the rest of us combined. They’re easy to spot because they always are bumping into friends and acquaintances on the street. Reach out to this one person and you’ve built a bridge to the whole community.
Connectors are like human phone books of potential friends and acquaintances. Your social calendar will teem with A-list events and happenings. They are to friendship formation what the Daily Double is to Jeopardy.
Consider these ways that well-positioned connectors can help you ratchet up your networking to a whole new level.
1. Add social elements to your favorite activities.
Do you and the connector both own dogs? Suggest that the two of you go dog-walking together, and you’re bound to meet a whole new circle of people. Do you like to go running? While solitary running is fine, it’s not the best way to increase your network. But if your connector likes to run, perhaps you and she can become part of a new tribe through social apps like meetup.com.
Or, maybe your connector has learned that you both have journaling in common and introduced you to a monthly writers’ group. As you get to know like-minded people from your connector’s groups and begin to share information about your career interests and aspirations, you will authentically expand your network. Think long-term and realize that the more people that know you, the better your chances that they’ll drop your name if they hear of a promising opportunity in your field.
2. Engage in some off-line schmoozing.
You’ve already burnished your online presence until it glows. Now you need to turn to off-line networking. Here’s where your people-savvy connector can play an essential role and get you out among the world of real, live humans. Connectors naturally know how to graciously invite others to join you for meals or outings. Intermingling with living, breathing people will ignite your social life and, in so doing, may help you uncover some potential new business opportunities. Even if those in the growing network vis-à-vis your connector don’t have a lead for you now, they might someday, and now they’ll know to reach out to you when it happens.
3. Broker high-powered introductions.
Are you painfully shy by nature? Having your connector as a wing-woman can help you meet some influential people. It’s up to you, though, to figure out ways to stay in touch with them. Here’s where your charm as a good listener can pay off. Listen for topics in the discussion that you know something about and promise to email an article about it to the person you just met. Or, use social media to keep your connection alive by responding to one of the person’s updates, “liking” the person’s posts, or sharing her posts. Finding your updates in their news feed will help turn your acquaintanceship into a stronger connection. Stay close to those who are achieving great things in their lives, and you’ll move that much faster to your ultimate goal.
4. Learn tips for mixing networking with fun.
Connectors know intuitively that any time they’re out doing those things they enjoy can be considered a networking opportunity. The way they learn about professional opportunities is by starting conversations. Take cues from your connector for mixing networking with pleasant daily encounters. Become expert at asking the person in line behind you at the coffee shop how her workday is going — you may find out she’s working for a company on your radar. Or, take a moment to chat with the neighbor you pass in the foyer each day and you might naturally uncover that he is a hiring manager for a prospective employer. Starting conversations will work to your advantage, because conversing during the enjoyable moments in your day is more effortless than in formal networking gatherings.
5. One caveat: Take care to choose your connector wisely.
Extreme extroverts may seem like the best prospects, but beware of anyone who craves attention from the masses or puts out a hustler vibe. The best connectors aren’t just looking out for number one; they truly enjoy the give-and-take of interacting with other people. Know that you’re judged by the company you keep, and take care to associate only with connectors who have more than their own interests in mind.
About the guest post author:
Vicky Oliver is a leading career development expert and the multi-best-selling author of five books, including: Live Like a Millionaire (Without Having to Be One) (Skyhorse Publishing, 2015) and 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions (Skyhorse Publishing, 2010). She is a sought-after speaker and seminar presenter and a popular media target, having made over 700 appearances in broadcast, print, and online outlets. For more information, visit vickyoliver.com.