Networking. The mere word conjures up discomfort: There you are, making forced small talk with complete strangers while balancing cube-shaped cheese or veggies and a pool of dip on a plastic plate. But networking isn't just an activity you do over cocktails and finger foods or with conversations centered around safe topics like the weather or what you find most "rewarding" about your job.
Networking is simply any act that builds strong personal connections with other people. And it's an essential activity—a necessary evil, some may say—for advancing your career or, if you're an entrepreneur, for securing new business and meeting investors. Since it's a human-focused undertaking, you're actually networking every time you interact with another person—or at least you can be. Each tap, tweet, post, message, and comment is the chance to make a connection—therefore, it's networking. That means that in the space of an ordinary workday, you have plenty of opportunities to network in a multitude of micro-ways, hold the micro-cheese. Here are a few of them.
YOUR EMAIL SIGNATURE
Come what may of other communication tools, email isn't going anywhere soon. According to a recent Radicati report, the average number of business emails sent and received per user each day totaled 122. And that figure is set to grow; by 2019, researchers estimate, we’ll be trading 126 emails a day. So rather than groaning about the state of your inbox, consider the 122 networking opportunities you have each time you hit "send." Set up an email signature line if you don't have one, and take a fresh look at it if you do. Do recipients know not only how to reach you (off email) but also what they should be seeking you out for when they do? Does your signature line appear at the bottom of each email sent, or do you have to remember to drop it in each time? Send yourself an email and consider how it looks from the perspective of a recipient. Would you like to talk to that person on the basis of the signature line alone? If not, change it.
You may have a polished, professional, up-to-date profile on LinkedIn, but that only tells part of your career story. To use LinkedIn to its fullest, you can't just treat it as a directory. You have to share updates pretty regularly in order to tell connections what’s on your mind, whether it's your point of view on some industry news story or just congratulating a colleague on a business win. You can break out of your own immediate professional sphere, too. Consider sharing updates on a nonprofit cause you care about; many business connections deepen around shared charitable interests, not just professional ones. And yes, updates are a chance to toot your own business horn—but just as the best networking isn't all "me me me," you should also use updates to cross-sell your colleagues’ talents or promote the services of vendors you trust. (Just remember that LinkedIn is still a business platform, so keep your LOLs and selfies for other social networking sites.)
YOUR SPEAKER OR AWARD BIO
Okay, maybe you aren't exactly invited to speak or receive an award on a daily basis, but the further you go in your career, the more often these opportunities may crop up. As they do, you'll need to craft custom bios that are tailored to each one. And as counter intuitive as it sounds, even if you're the main-stage attraction, the bio you submit should be all about the audience, not about you: Who are they? Why do they care about what you have to say or what you've accomplished? How can you draft your bio to connect with them more meaningfully? The bio you submit won't just appear in a program handout, it's also likely to be posted on the event or organization’s website, included in online marketing materials and even a press release (where others will readily find it with a quick Google search). So take the time to craft a targeted bio each time you're asked for one. Use the opportunity to not only just tell them what you’ve done in the past, but also to show them what they should be seeking from you in the future.
FDMC Social & Digital Media LLC