You know you need to make connections and build a strong network within and beyond your organisation, but does it have to feel like another task on your to-do list?
We love to socialise and need to interact to relax and have fun. But networking is an important facet of our business life and that can make it feel like a task. Successful networkers know that opportunities are everywhere and can often be enjoyable. Here are three ways to make more of your networking opportunities and enjoy it.
Socialise more at work
Socialising after work hours is important and can be fun. You may go on company trips, training days or team dinners, but these ‘team’ events are not intimate and the point is to get to know people on a personal level. If you get to know your boss on a personal level (up to a point) and find something in common, you can more easily build a better relationship as well as communicate better, and the same applies to your office team and other co-workers. These relationships can be built up in very small, spontaneous, easily managed meetings like coffee or lunch breaks or a drink after work.
Socialising in off-the-cuff situations can often boost your network and career development, so a friendly chat with people outside your department while waiting for the kettle to boil, picking up the post or delivering reports may pay off later. Building your network across your organisation, rather than ‘silo working’ just within your department, will forge useful links, enhance your image and create an information grapevine.
Work may be work, but people like to work with real people – those that have similar interests and a social, engaging personality.
Socialise whenever you are training
If you focus solely on study and getting good grades when taking a training course you will be missing out. Socialising while you study will develop your social skills and can forge deeper bonds with people. After the training course, you should leave with three things:
1. A qualification
2. Friends you made and still keep in touch with
3. Acquaintances you see once in a while at events or perhaps in your business field.
Who you meet when you are on a training course really matters – it’s not just the qualification but the network that could be invaluable to you in business. Years after you qualify, some of your classmates will be in interesting or even senior positions and could be potential partners, introductions, customers, or employers.
If you were social while training and knew a lot of people, your classmates will remember that and will be more likely to link, meet and network with you.
Continue to build your own social circles
Don’t just work and then spend time with family and existing friends. Continue to invest time in socialising in your community to expand your network. You never know who you will meet and how they may be a resource in the future. For example, after having children, try starting a mothers’ group in your network. The purpose is to create play opportunities for the children while providing stimulating conversation for the mothers, but as friends introduce women from their own networks you’ll be amazed at the intellectual power and reach of the parents in this group. You’ll became close friends through your kids and although you’ll rarely talk about work and you won’t start this group for business purposes you’ll know you can reach out to this network for business support if needed.
So ask yourself, what are your interests? Participate in or start groups with similar interests and you never know who you can meet while you are having fun.