Networking is a skill that many young professionals are often uncomfortable with. How does one build a network where you can pick up the phone and accomplish a difficult task? How do you build a network with potential mentors that you can work with throughout your career? How do you start to build a network at all?
These are all valid questions with simple answers. However, like anything worth having, you’ll have to work hard and be patient to cultivate a network that works for you.
Here is the first in a series of three easy starting points:
- Find a hobby that speaks to a wide audience. If you’re looking to cultivate a diverse network, spending all of your free time gaming online (for instance) is not going help foster many conversations with potential contacts who are not into gaming. Also, those outside of your specific hobby world may not want to know anything additional about your awesome game score.
Two approaches to finding a new hobby with the right fit:
A) Think about who you would like to connect with and your own interests. If you want to meet more people who play tennis, sail, and go golfing, but you hate golf and get really bad tennis elbow, try sailing!
B) Find something that is universally understood (i.e. sports, the arts, etc.) that you are passionate about (or at least like). If you love to paint, that’s great! As the conversation starts to turn away from business at your next office event, ask your new connection what he/she enjoys doing outside of work, listen actively to the response, and then share that you love to paint. Most people will ask what you like to paint, how you got into this hobby, etc. The conversation goes from there.
Regardless of the route you take, make a note in your phone of the person’s name and what you talked about. If they offered you a card, write the conversation key points as bullet notes on the back and then add them into the notes section when you create a new contact. If you know you are going to see this person again, or need to reach out to them, but cannot remember the details, these brief notes will help you pick up where you left off.
Does all of this mean that you have to give up your online gaming? No. It just means that you are branching out to make yourself well-rounded. You may have to try more than one hobby to find a great fit! But, by trying something new, you are also learning new skills and opening yourself up to change – which are both good things!
Check back for tip #2 in two weeks!
Kate Scanlan is the Coordinator for the Costa Leadership Institute and the 2016 Professional Development Chair for YP@TB. Kate enjoys supporting the community by taking an active role in the Junior League of the Emerald Coast and the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce. When not at work, Kate enjoys gardening, cooking, yoga, and playing with her dog.