Back in 2013, the struggle was real for me when it came to networking–of any kind. I didn’t join Twitter until 2013. Facebook was just a social network to find old college buddies and long lost family members. I used Instagram to live vicariously through the perfectly curated lives of others. And I failed to attend networking events to schmooze with strangers because quite frankly it just felt creepy and weird.
But early 2014, I realized that if I wanted to advance my career and succeed as a solo-entrepreneur, I couldn’t do it alone. I had to find my squad — a rock star group of mentors, sponsors, and partners who could help me get out of my own way.
I also figured out how to shift my perspective about networking. First, I came up with a strategy on how to find and ‘lovingly stalk’ a few key influencers online. Then I found simple ways to add value to those relationships by participating in online discussions, sharing their articles, leaving comments or even volunteering to help with their in-person events or initiatives. I also got picky with the types of events I would attend. Because the reality is, you could connect with someone at Barnes & Noble, Starbucks or the gym for Christ sake. Lastly, I scheduled a weekly meeting in my calendar called “Follow-up Friday.” Because seriously, what’s the purpose of attending these events if you don’t follow-up?
So I have to say the success of my business in 2015, was all hard work and the right relationships. Now my 2016 success plan consists of opportunities that my network helped me to discover in 2015: I nailed 3 new clients and even landed 2 speaking gigs–one of which will be held in South Africa in November 2016.
When it comes to stepping up your networking game, here’s what I want you to realize, “You can’t plant seeds and reap the harvest in the same season (Lisa Nichols).” Networking is not a one-time thing.
Recently, I wrote an article for Black Enterprise and dropped a few gems on ways to step up your networking game.
- Seek to become a Super Connector – Networking isn’t solely about you. When you meet someone, think, ‘How can I connect this person with someone who can help them?’
- Organize an event for people with mutual interests and create an opportunity for people to have long-lasting connections.
- Market your expertise by writing your own articles and publishing your post on LinkedIn, personal blog or any other related online news outlet.
- Share your experiences or point of view regarding an event via live video streaming channels, such as Periscope, Facebook live, Blab or Snap Chat.
- Support your tribe at on and offline events — You’d be surprised how far you can advance your career by simply supporting the causes of others.
- Start a Facebook group to connect with like-minded people, build your credibility and establish yourself as an expert. Be sure to join the conversation by sharing your experiences or asking group member questions.
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