You probably have more networks — and a wider circle of contacts — in your personal and professional life than you realise.
In addition to past and present jobs, think of the contacts you’ve made from groups such as fellow parents; family; contacts from your time at university; clubs, hobbies or volunteering positions; sport teams; your trusted service professionals, such as your hairdresser or lawn mower; and more.
And yes, in this virtual age this includes contacts on social media that you might not have even met in person, but you’ve build a relationship of trust based on common interests.
All of these individuals form a massive “web” of connections – think, Six Degrees of Separation – that can help you get closer to your goals. Here’s how to leverage your web and make it work to your advantage [while growing it, too!]
- Start by mapping out your “web”: write a list of all of the groups that make up your network [hint: start with some of the suggestions in our second paragraph].
- Set a goal for networking. Do you want to meet someone who can help you find a job? Someone who can help advise you on your next career move? Someone who can serve as a mentor? Then, for every outcome you’d like to create, think of the contribution you are uniquely positioned to make. Networking is about both adding value AND gaining value, so you’ll need to give in order to receive.
- Get to work making new contacts by leveraging your existing web. Start with someone you already know and ask them to introduce you to someone else in their network that might be a helpful contact for you. Little by little, step by step, your circle of contacts will grow.
- Be creative in how you network. The old-fashioned face-to-face coffee meeting remains highly effective for building trust. Then, in the professional sphere, meetings, events, and conferences offer a myriad of great opportunities for networking, from breakfasts to breakout sessions. Don’t forget to consider non-dietetic events, such as medical specialty conferences or marketing/business events.
- Join a professional or volunteer organisation, if you’re not already in one. Put up your hand for a committee or project role. Remember, you have to give in order to receive.
- Remember that networking happens everywhere- even in your time off, even on weekends. People you might meet in a social setting, such as a party, or on the weekend, doing sports activities with the kids, can become trusted contacts that help you reach your goals.
- Get networking online – it’s easy, fast and can help you make global contacts. Reach out to someone new via email or LinkedIn. Participate in online discussion forums, email listserves and social media. Focus on sharing information that is of interest to members of that online community. Seek out groups of like-minded people on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Make sure your “web” of contacts is as diverse as possible, and always seek out chances to meet new people. You never know where your next business opportunity might arise.
Most importantly, start by reaching out to someone today!
By Maree Ferguson, Director Dietitian Connection
Edited by Laura Byrne