In my last article, I wrote about the many reasons why forming personal connections is important. In this article, I’m going to give you some tips on how to find other people who are interested in expanding their network and making real connections. No, I’m not offering dating advice! But I am offering my advice on how to develop your professional learning network (PLN) and expand your circle of friends.
By following these suggestions, you can begin making the connections that will help you grow as a person and as a professional. You’ll find your network and can begin sharing your knowledge and experience with your community.
Keep your eyes open for opportunities.
The first step to finding people to connect with is deciding that you want to make those connections. Once you are open to investing your time and effort in developing new friendships, you will be surprised at the opportunities that present themselves. How many of the people that you encounter throughout the day are small business owners, entrepreneurs, or professionals? Whether you’re at a late night gallery opening or taking an early morning yoga class, commit to spending a few extra minutes each day talking to the people around you.
Leverage information technology.
Modern technology has allowed us to automate many tasks, but building relationships isn’t one of them. However, technology can help you find opportunities to meet people. Use social media, websites, and email lists to find and stay informed about networking opportunities in your local area. For example, my friends and associates use Eventbrite to schedule and organize meetings and events. Then, we spread the word about our gatherings using LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
Follow your local business associations’ social media pages to stay informed about networking opportunities in your area.
Use your time wisely.
“But Kit,” you say, “I’m really busy. There are days I don’t get out of the office at all. How am I going to meet those people?” The truth is, you have to find the time. I operate a small business, so I understand that urge to only spend time on activities that earn. Spending the morning at a meet and greet over coffee can be hard to justify. To overcome your reluctance, think of the time you spend meeting others as an investment in your future.
Besides, organizers like me realize that your time needs to be well spent. We try to create events that serve dual purposes. Many national and regional professional conferences now include blocks of time dedicated to networking and free discussions. Locally, you can seek out seminars and other gatherings that provide enrichment along with an opportunity to meet fellow professionals.
Expand your horizons with virtual networking.
When it comes to expanding your network, face-to-face meetings are still your most effective tool. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t take advantage of other opportunities. A few years ago, most of us used the written word to connect with our friends or “fam” on social media. But things have changed rapidly.
You can now engage with people from all over the world via video using Facebook Live, Google Hangouts, Twitch, and Crowdcast (here’s our Crowdcast channel if you’re interested!)just to name a few. If you want to expand your reach beyond your hometown, these tools can get you there.
Stop, Look, and Listen.
If you ask anyone who knows me, they will tell you that I love to meet new people. I also enjoy introducing my friends to one another. Great things can happen when we all put our heads together. I wasn’t always so outgoing. It took me a while to get the hang of networking and nurturing real relationships.
Over time, I learned that to build those personal connections, you have to stop and look for them. Building relationships requires us to listen to those around us and genuinely hear what they have to say. It may take some time for you to develop these habits. But, I promise you that the time you take to make great connections will be time well spent.