Read time: approx. 12 minutes
Networking. You’ve probably already heard 10,000 times how important networking is for professional success, whether you’re trying to get ahead as an individual or as a business. It’s not just what you know, it’s who you know, right? Well, sorry to say it for the 10,001 time, but we’re here to remind you again that networking really is an essential part of building a successful career or business, so if you’re not networking already, you should be! This adage is repeated over and over again for a reason.
Even though it might sound like a pain and an inconvenience (especially for those introverted, wallflower types), it really is worth the time and effort. Sure, you probably already have friends and mentors that you’ve met through other aspects of your life, and while those people are important too, cultivating contacts and connections within your industry and within your local business community offer a whole range of benefits those other people in your life may not be able to provide.
In addition to the possibility of developing genuine camaraderie and friendships within your professional network (which may be easier than you anticipate it to be, given that you likely already have something in common), building a professional network can give you a support system that delivers all other sorts of advantages, such as education, information, and advice specifically tailored to your interests, passions, and industry of work through engaging and interacting with the other people who share them.
Attending events, conferences, and meetings, and attaining membership in relevant clubs, groups, and organizations may also give you the opportunity to use certain tools and resources you wouldn’t have access to otherwise. Participating in these activities and events and socializing with the people there will also give you the chance to meet and find potential new bosses, employees, co-workers, and partners you may not even have known you needed. It will also give you the opportunity to reach potential new clients, customers, and consumers, as well as learn about new products, companies and business ventures you may want to invest in.
Finally, if you make a good impression, networking gives you the occasion to improve your business’ (or your own) visibility, increasing awareness and raising your profile in the process, and possibly even get referrals from others.
So how do you do it? How do you network? For some of us, it comes fairly naturally and organically, while for others, it may take a concerted effort to make the connections you want and need. Here are a few tips and tricks we’ve found effective.
1.Ask people questions about themselves and what they do with genuine interest, compassion, and curiosity.
People like talking about themselves, and you’re likely to learn a lot of valuable information and life lessons in the process. Ask them how they got into their line of work, what their favorite parts about their job are, what their average day is like, what kind of challenges and issues they’ve encountered, what they’ve learned during their time being in that profession, and so on.
A good place to start is asking them questions about their job and their business, but it can sometimes also be helpful to get to know them more deeply on a basic human level as well, by asking questions about their family or pets or hobbies outside of work. Obviously, it’s important not to pressure them into talking about anything too personal or private, especially if you’ve just met, but usually, people appreciate having the chance to talk not just about work, but other subjects and parts of their life as well.
2. Take Notes.
Even those of us with the best memories and the most focused attention-spans can’t always remember everything we’ve heard and learned about people later on, particularly following a large event in which we met a lot of different people, no matter how much effort we put into listening to what they were telling us.
So don’t feel weird or embarrassed about take notes during or after a networking event. Of course, we don’t necessarily recommend standing next to someone during a conversation, pen and notebook in hand, jotting down every single word they say.
It can be helpful, however, to take a minute or two between interactions to type their name and a couple interesting facts about them into a note on your phone, for example, or write down as much as you can remember from the event in a notebook afterwards as documentation. Doing this will make reconnecting with them later on so much easier, and they’ll likely be touched that you remembered their passion for vintage cars or their labradoodle named Napoleon.
3. Before leaving an event, make sure the people you met know at least three basic things about you, those being:
Who you are
What services/skills you provide
Your contact information
4. Really do follow up, touch base, and stay in touch.
Following the previous tip, we’d like to stress that building connections is usually not an action or event that happens once and then magically continues evolving naturally and organically afterwards. If you want to maintain or deepen your relationship with someone, business or otherwise, you need follow up when you say you’re going to, call and email when you say will, make plans to have coffee or lunch or go golfing or whatever when you say you will.
If you want said person to take you seriously, you need to be serious when one of you suggests staying in contact, touching base, or staying in touch later on. Relationships of all kinds, including our professional ones, need to be nurtured and tended to in order to turn into anything of significance. You don’t necessarily need to call them every day or go out for drinks every week in order to do this (in fact, that might be a little overbearing), but if you want to make a connection you can count on to help you, support you, or speak well of you later on, you need to put in the work now to get to know them and make them feel appreciated.
5. Networking is a two-way street.
Don’t just expect to get things in return for simply introducing yourself or having a conversation with someone. If you want to be helped, praised, or supported (verbally, financially, or otherwise), start by doing those things for others — or if someone has already done one of these things for you or your business, be sure to show your appreciation by doing something nice for them.
Now you’ve got the connecting part down, where exactly can you find people to connect with? The internet, your local newspaper, your city’s chamber of commerce, industry magazines, and of course, good old-fashioned word of mouth are great ways to find out about events and other opportunities where you can begin building your network. A few websites, apps, and online tools we like to use include Facebook, Meetup.com, Eventbrite, and LinkedIn.
If you live or work here in Flagstaff like we do, we also recommend checking out the following groups and organizations:
Opportunities for Networking in Flagstaff
The Lunch Club
A recently launched new initiative and networking group developed by yours truly, The Lunch Club is, in their own words, a “relaxed, business networking group that meets weekly for lunch.” Through The Lunch Club, you’ll get the chance to “meet new people, make new business connections, and have the opportunity to share ideas and collaborate with other business owners and community members in Northern Arizona.” At The Lunch Club, you’ll get to meet 4-6 new people each week in a small group intimate setting, as well as participate in mastermind groups and “lunch n’ learns” where you will gain new skills and insights. Lunch meetings will be held at a different restaurant each week. For more information on how to join, visit The Lunch Club website.
Flagstaff Business Connections
You can find more information on how to join Flagstaff Business Connections, a group of “self-employed business owners or managers who are dedicated to excellent customer service in their fields” on their website.
Flagstaff Independent Business Alliance
The Flagstaff Business Alliance, also known as FIBA, is a “coalition of locally owned, independent businesses and community members working together to further develop the economic vitality of Flagstaff while enhancing and preserving its unique character.” You can find more information about them, what they do, and how to join on their website.
Downtown Business Alliance
You can find out more about Flagstaff’s historic downtown district, and how to get involved with Flagstaff’s Downtown Business Alliance, a “nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Historic Downtown Flagstaff” on their website.
Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce
Our Chamber of Commerce is a local, non-profit organization that “promote[s] businesses and advocate[s] on their behalf.” For more information, you can visit their website.
Flagstaff Young Professionals
An initiative of the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce, Flagstaff Young Professionals is a networking group that aims to “bring young professionals together to connect, create community, and thrive through career development, service projects, and relationship building.” You can find out more about them and how to apply to join.
Mountain Mojo Group is located in Flagstaff, Williams, the White Mountains, and Page, Arizona and provides top-quality marketing solutions and design! Our team works with small businesses all across the state of Arizona, providing a variety of marketing and design services including, social media management, photography, videography, strategy, web design, graphic design, SEO, and paid search engine marketing. Our team of creatives is ready to tackle your next marketing project. Contact our team today at (928) 440-5301 or stop by one of our offices located throughout northern Arizona.