Are you looking for a way to comfortably grow your network?
Meeting new people is a challenge even for the most seasoned professionals. Networking doesn’t have to make you feel awkward or fake.
Most people would agree that networking plays an important role in career success. However, time constraints interfere with your good intentions. It takes time to attend a networking event where you can rub elbows with people who share professional interests.
Is there an alternative to meeting people face to face?
Yes, but this requires reaching out to someone you don’t know and this intimidates a lot of people. It doesn’t have to be this way.
All you need is a plan for how you’ll meet new people who can help your career. Follow these two steps and you’ll feel less intimidated and be more successful in building new professional relationships.
Before Reaching Out To New People
When meeting someone new, always look for something you have in common. It could be sports, school, volunteer activities, someone you know, your hometown or maybe they work for a company you are interested in. You can discover this information through LinkedIn, Facebook or by talking with people you know.
Grow Your Network With These 4 Approaches
Email Is The Obvious Choice
Everyone has an email address and uses it as a primary communication platform. But if you don’t know the person, you may not know their email address, either. You could try to sleuth the company’s email formula, for example, “first name.last email@example.com” or you could search for the person on social networks. You could also try some of the tips mentioned in this article by Donna Svei’s AvidCareerist.
Twitter Is Easy and Less Risky
In order to communicate with someone on Twitter, all you need to do is mention the person’s handle and add your short message. Remember, you have 140 characters total. Your invite or call to action could be to exchange contact information via a DM, or Direct Message.
Facebook Conversations Can Be Trickier
Do not send a message to someone you are not friends with on Facebook. Your message will end up in a different mail folder and probably won’t ever get read. Instead, look for mutual friends you share with the person. Ask your shared friend to facilitate an introduction, preferably through email.
LinkedIn Prompts Conversations
There’s a new “Messaging” window on LinkedIn. It’s at the bottom of your screen (on the desktop version). It’s there to help facilitate conversations. But it also is more powerful than you may realize.
When you click on the profile of someone you would like to meet or connect with, the message window opens and you will see the names of people you know who can introduce you to that person. All you have to do is message the person you know and ask for an introduction.
Or if you are on a LinkedIn job posting or a company’s LinkedIn page, the message window will show you the people you know who work there.
All of this makes it easier for you to do the right thing – reach out and talk with someone to gain information, advice or recommendations.
According to Sammy Shreibati, a senior product manager at LinkedIn,
“nearly 50% of LinkedIn members have found a job through a mutual connection.”
Remember, the No. 1 rule of networking is that you are not asking for a job.
What you really want is to build a new relationship that might one day turn into a job or a lead. And the best time to expand your network is before you start looking for a new job. Grow your network before you need it.
Nurture Your Network Now!
Think about all the people you used to work with, went to school with, volunteered with or otherwise met at some stage of your life. That’s a lot of people to stay in touch with. But at least once or twice a year, you have an easy excuse to wish someone a happy birthday or send holiday greetings. You know more people than you think and the best time to stay in touch with them is NOW!
Do you have a manageable plan for how you’ll keep in touch? You’ll want to schedule calls to touch base quarterly or monthly so don’t forget.
Staying in touch with past co-workers and friends can be time-consuming. However, not staying in touch will make it harder to reach out the next time you need something.
This post originally appeared on US News & World Report On Careers
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.