I wasn’t always a networker. In fact, during the first 15 years of my career, I did little, if any, networking. I didn’t see the need for it, I didn’t think I had time for it, I didn’t feel particularly adept at it. Today, it is one of the things that I have built my personal and professional brand upon. Now, I see the very clear need for it, I prioritize and make the time for it, though, truth told, I still don’t always feel particularly adept at it. Literally, every day, I come across others who are connecting with the community in different ways, more efficient ways, more profitable ways, more effective ways. Even though I am often looked to as the expert, I am still learning. I want to be better.
With that as the backdrop, I recently heard a sermon delivered by my friend, Rabbi David Glickman, in which he talked about “aspirational faith.” Essentially, the idea is that we must struggle with what we have if we are to achieve more. It is in this context that I understood my own approach to relationship building is simply a description of “aspirational networking.” That is, when it comes to networking, I am not satisfied with what I currently have. I want to be the best which requires that I continue to challenge myself, continue to learn from others, continue to learn so that I may be better tomorrow than I am today. Essentially, I must strive for more.
How about you? What’s in your aspirational networking plan? Are you intentional about the approach you take to relationship building? What is one thing you would like to improve? Consider these goal-oriented ideas:
- Reconnect with someone. Quick! Think of one person with whom you used to work or who you interacted with in a professional setting from a previous job or past project that you worked on. You may have lost touch when one of you moved on to a new position or the initiative you worked on together concluded. Reach out to them. Suggest getting together for coffee, lunch or a simple 15-minute Zoom catch up call. By bringing them back into your life, you are sure to benefit from one another’s perspectives, experiences and insights. Up for a challenge? Don’t stop with one person… develop this practice into a monthly ritual.
- Meet someone new. Did you read an article about another local professional in your community that inspired you or made you think? Were you introduced at a reception to someone interesting? Have you heard about someone through the grapevine who is doing work similar to your own? Find a way to connect with them. You can ask a mutual contact to put you in touch or you can gather your courage and reach out directly. Tell them you admire them and their work… that you’d love to get to know them… and then suggest a date, time and location to get together. Again, build this concept into your repertoire. Think of the possibilities!
- Attend an event. Though networking events and receptions are not my favorite approach to getting to know people, I do find them to be efficient in terms of the opportunity to connect with several people who, like me, have some connection to the host organization. Remember, you don’t have to stay long – just long enough to say hello to one, two or three people who you have been wanting to meet or reconnect with. Be sure to visit with them enough to know what is generally going on with them and to establish that you would like to follow up with them for a time to talk one-on-one. Consider attending events like this once a week… or once a month… whatever the right cadence is for you. You’ll become a regular – people will start looking for you!
Keep striving, fellow relationship builder. Aspire for more. Happy Networking!