I have no idea why people automatically associate networking with big conferences or events/ meeting with lots of people attending and giving out business cards.
These events are just one part of initially connecting with someone from your industry/interest area and you don’t have to attend these if a large group makes you uncomfortable.
Networking is the art of developing long term mutually beneficial relation; it does not depend on number of connections but dependability of the connection. Networking does not happen in one day.
IDENTIFY YOUR NETWORKING NEED
Your need defines the network you create. Your network should be built to address your future aspirations while meeting your current goals.
CREATE A GOAL VERSUS CURRENT NETWORK MAP
Write down your goal and now make a list of all people in your current network. Any yes we all have a current network.
Write down the names of your family members, friends, neighbours, co-workers, colleagues, and even casual acquaintances.
Find relationship between your goals and network.
Say your goal is to find a job in “X” field – you can use your current network to a > know of an available job or b > connect you to someone who will know of one.
Remember each member in your network connects you to another network (e.g., your ex – colleague may know the HR of a company currently hiring)
SHARE YOUR GOALS WITH YOUR NETWORK
I think that the two most difficult things to do for an introvert are a> asking for feedback and b> asking for help for self. It feels uncomfortable asking for favours.
Here are a few tips to help you ask for help
1> Articulate your goal: Define what you are looking for in a concise and clear manner.
Be it an introduction to a connection in the LinkedIn network, referral to a job or potential client references. Be clear about what you are looking for, why you are looking for it, how your network connection can help you and what is your offer.
2> Send customized mailer with your goal, using the guideline above to your connections.
Example: “I carry 4+ years of experience in Talent Acquisition, HR MIS, Employee Shared services, Induction and Joining, Compensation & Benefit management related areas with XYZ Company in your industry. I noticed that currently there’s an open vacancy in your company for a similar position. Would you mind helping me make a connection with a hiring manager or the recruiter? ”
Remember to send individual emails to people instead of a group email. People are a lot more inclined to help when they feel you’re reaching out to them individually.
An email takes away the embarrassment that you feel in asking for a face to face favour.
3> Follow-up, update and thank your connections
Always provide feedback to those who were kind of enough to offer their help. Thank them for their time. Update them on whether you got the interview or the job. Or use the opportunity to report on the lack of success or the need for additional help.
BUILDING & MAINTAINING THE NETWORK
Here are a few ways to ensure that you are able to build the relationship with your current network and enlarge your network without overwhelming yourself.
1> Arrange for a 1 to 1 lunch / coffee meeting
For an introvert this is one of the best ways to have a face to face interaction, as the time duration is limited. The interaction is limited to one person and awkward silences can be covered by talking about food / coffee or actually eating.
2> Volunteer for a cause you are passionate about or on a committee to connect with people who share similar interests.
The shared interest will give you something to talk about with the new members, while the work will ensure that you do not have to make unnecessary small talk.
Read http://heidicohen.com/19-blog-tips-to-expand-your-reach/ to know how to use the blog for networking.
4> Use you-tube / webinars
Hint: The advantages are same as blogging, but you talk / video record yourself. Making it easier for people to connect to you. People link webinars with experts.
5> Host your own Networking event
Benefits: You decide who you will invite. You can define the format of event to make it easier for you to interact. You give people a reason to get to know you as a connector and strengthen your relationships.
Ideas: Speed networking, Bring a guest, Theme of the month event, Breakfast meeting etc.
6> Follow on twitter / LinkedIn
Know what’s happening in your network by following your connect and those you plan to connect with. Reply to their tweets , comment on their posts, retweet , reblog and send them emails once in a while.
Remember a network is not about only taking, it’s more about “giving back”. The more you “give” to your network, the stronger it becomes. Making you stronger, making you successful.