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If you’re looking to propel your career or business forward, making the right connections through networking can be very advantageous. Let’s focus for a moment on your dreams, goals and aspirations. How will you land your next job? How will you get the internship you’ve been seeking? Where will your next client come from? The truth of the matter is the right connection can essentially lead you into the right direction!

There are real benefits to establishing new relationships, outside of family and friends. The power of networking lies in the simple belief that while you may deserve more, you must step out of your comfort zone in order to get what you deserve. It may not necessarily happen right away but it can and will happen. How do I go about networking outside of my circle? Here are a few tips:

Networking Events: I’ve touched on this before in a previous blog post however, networking events are “tried and true”. I know there’s this theory that you must pass out “X” amount of business cards at these events, then turn around and collect as many business cards as possible to help build an emailing list (a mailing list that you’re unsuspecting recipient never asked to be put on in the first place). This is probably the most disingenuous way to make a connection, let alone to build a relationship. In business, everything is about building relationships. It takes time and effort to cultivate these relationships.

Whether you’re seeking a mentor, new client, or more customers, properly engaging with your potential candidate goes a long way as well as staying connected. The most effective way to make the most out of your experience at a networking event is first do your research. Research the type of event, who’s hosting it, who will be there, check the list of names and industries of those whom you’re interested in meeting.

Since this will be the first time you’re introducing yourself to your potential candidate, I wouldn’t recommend immediately handing over a business card, nor do I recommend that you begin your conversation with discussing business, as this isn’t the best way to establish a relationship with someone.

Make small talk first, “hi how are you, my name is”. If the conversation veers into your respective industries, offer your business cards then “may I offer you my business card in order for us to stay in touch”? Follow up via email, by re-introducing yourself, stay in touch and build the relationship from there.

Instead of focusing on making 10 connections, try 2-3. This takes the pressure off of you trying to meet everyone in the room while allowing you to truly get to know a few people. Not to mention it’ll make it a lot easier for you to enjoy yourself while allowing your personality to shine!

Coffee shops: Yes! Your local coffee shop is a great way to meet people! It’s a bit less of a contrived environment. Most people who are in the coffee shop are relaxed (sort of), a lot easier to talk to as you’re not in a crowded, loud event. It’s more of an intimate setting and you can easily start a conversation off about your favorite blends, roasts, pastries, you name it!

Practically everyone either drinks coffee or tea, so there’s no shortage of people coming in. There are a number of business owners who either work from coffee shops or stop in for a quick bite. The idea is to give you possibilities of meeting your next client or customer in various settings. People tend to do business with those whom they feel comfortable with. Sometimes a change in your environment (i.e. a coffee shop) along with incorporating your personality can lead you to your next client!

Social Media: There is not a single source and or entity on the face of the earth where you can meet hundreds may be even thousands of people, even like-minded individuals, in one place. “What if I’m uncomfortable with just reaching out to random people?” Well if you’re an introvert, not a “people person”, or meeting new people tends to make you nervous, start with offering a compliment on your ideal candidate’s page. A compliment goes a long way! Longer than the “likes”.

Build up your confidence level through simple conversations. Your engagement should be authentic and genuine. I’m not talking about the “wow that’s an awesome post” as this seems a bit generic, even though you may be authentic with your response. Offer something a little more profound and in depth. It could be something related to their website, service, maybe their “about” page was intriguing.

Once the two of you have reached a “comfort” level with one another; meaning you converse on a pretty consistent basis, shoot them an email (sometimes the Direct Message or leaving comments in the comment section, can come across as impersonal and unprofessional) telling them why you love their brand, that you’re interested in either collaborating with them, utilizing their services, looking to gain insight on an industry you’re interested in. Give them an honest reason why you’re reaching out to them. You never know where the relationship may lead!

The idea is to make the right connection that will lead you into the direction in which you want your business or career to go in. This means networking with the right people outside of your immediate circle. Stepping outside of your “comfort zone” also means stepping into an “elevation” zone.

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