The reason why so many people hate to do “networking” is that it feels fake or forced.
If you’re the person being contacted, you are often surprised: you haven’t heard from them in awhile and/or you sense that there’s something they want from you, and that’s why they’re contacting you.
If you’re the contacter, you feel anxious and artificial about reaching out, because you know how the recipient is likely to feel.
And yet, our network can make a very positive difference to our careers, if we actually did keep in touch. Why not find mutual benefit from one’s network?
Be mindful of whom you stay in touch with.
Imagine having a network of people that:
- you really do care about,
- who care about you as well,
- and you’re relevant to each other professionally, as a potential client or referral source.
Of the hundreds of people that you already know or are acquainted with, there are at least a few who can fit the above description.
Are you keeping in touch with them?
Have a look at your existing network.
In each of the following places, look for the people that fit the above 3 criteria.
- Your list of Facebook friends
- Your LinkedIn contacts
- Your email “sent” folder (people you’ve emailed)
- Your text messages (whom you’ve recently texted)
- Other social media you use — the people who follow you — Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.
- Online groups you’re in (e.g. Facebook Groups)
- Offline groups, clubs, meetups, and associations that you go to
Look through each of the places above. Write down the names of those you’d genuinely enjoy staying in touch with.
Once you’ve got the list, add a star next to the names of the people whom you find professionally relevant. These are the people whom it makes the most sense to mindfully keep in touch with on a regular basis.
This is where typical “networking” falls down: you can’t tell if the person reaching out to you actually cares, or just wants something from you.
You don’t have to give others that awkward feeling, by doing such calculated outreach.
Instead, start keeping in touch on a regular basis, because you actually want to.
The simplest way is to keep up with their social media posts.
I call it “social media caring” and this video shows you how I do this on Facebook, using “friend lists” to curate my news feed so that I’m seeing the posts of the people I care most about:
Reciprocity is natural.
If you are keeping in touch, and caring about them genuinely because you want to support them, then they are likely eager to support you as well. Reciprocity is natural.
Whenever you have something you’d like to promote or seeking referrals for, be sure to reach out to these kindred spirits. Friends want to help friends, and it is good to give your friends that opportunity.
Since you are keeping in touch regularly, it’s not awkward or out of the blue to ask them for help.
Regularly review your list of kindred spirits, and add (or remove) as needed. Keep in touch with those with whom you find genuine mutual connection and professional support.
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