Column: Start networking and don't give up
Photo by Christophe Libert
Here are a few ideas which might help get you through those tough times.
- Remember, it takes time. Probably the most important thing to do is to keep everything in perspective. Networking is not an overnight thing. Expecting to walk into a networking event and walk back out with a signed contract is like walking into a singles bar and expecting to walk out with a wedding ring — not likely!
- It's about them. Often first-timers get frustrated because they are focused on their ultimate networking goal (referrals, contracts, contributions, etc) and their network hasn't provided it yet. Those of you who are parents know exactly how this feels. For the first eight weeks or so of it's life, a baby doesn't smile. You are putting a lot of effort into it, but not getting much out (at least not much that you really enjoy). Still, you don't give up. You keep devoting your time and energy and one day, in your sleep-deprived, foggy-headed world, that little one will give you a toothless grin and suddenly it's all worth it. Same thing happens with your network.
- Use internal goals. This is where a networking scorecard comes in handy. Instead of setting the goal of three signed contracts, which is an external goal, set a goal of 50 points a week (or two face-to-face's, or three events, or whatever). These are goals that you can control and are more likely to meet with success.
- Use rewards. You might already do this for your external goals, but be sure to reward yourself for attaining your internal goals, too. Maybe reaching your 50 point goal for two weeks straight might mean that you get to treat yourself to an extra-special froo-froo coffee the next time you are in your local java den.
The trick is to stay focused on building the network, not on what you expect to get out of it. If you put in the effort (it is called networking after all) and build your connections on a consistent basis, you will discover that soon, you will be getting out much more than you put in. Won't you be glad you stuck to it then?