It comes easy to some, and is difficult for others. If you are a social butterfly, networking should come easily to you. If you are shy, not so much. But as a professional, you should get better at networking. Why? It can only help you in your career. I have found that the Cleveland marketing community is small. Forget six degrees of separation, I am fairly certain that we are only three people away from knowing everyone in the Cleveland marketing community.
If you network, you can build your own group of local experts. I have learned more from the board members of the AMA Cleveland than I would have by taking a class. For example, I have a question on a social media trend. I send an email to my “network” of experts and a discussion is born.
Business starts with relationships, and relationships start by networking. Agencies gain new business from networking. Local printers and photographers gain new business from networking. People want to do business with people they like, and they can’t like you if they don’t know you.
Nervous about putting yourself out there? When you think about it, you start networking on your first day of school. Who will I sit next to on the bus? Who will I swing with at recess? So you have been networking since you were five, and you didn't even realize it.
If you have not mastered networking, don’t worry. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
Within your company. If possible, ask to be part of cross-functional project groups. Get out of your comfort zone and meet new people at your company. The more you learn about your company and other departments, the more knowledge you gain. Be an asset to your company.
Join a LinkedIn group. This is an easy way to ask questions of your professional peers without leaving your computer.
Join a professional group. Such as the American Marketing Association. It looks great on your resume and you can create a “network” of potential business partners and experts. The Cleveland AMA chapter offers 30 minutes of networking before our luncheon and dinner events. We also have quarterly Mix @ Six events where networking can be done in a social setting.
Bring a friend to a local event. Does walking into a room full of strangers make you uneasy? Bring a friend with you.
Have your 15-second elevator pitch ready. Someone will ask about you. Prepare your pitch in advance so it is fluid. Also, have a few general questions ready to ask new people you meet. Ask, learn, listen and engage with people. You may have just met your next account or employer.
I look forward to seeing YOU at our next event! #ThisisCLE, April 17th event at the Velvet Dog. An Inside Look at Positively Cleveland’s New Campaign to Brand the Region We Love.
About the Author: Patty DelMonico is currently the Marketing Project Manager at Invacare Corporation and the President of the AMA Cleveland Chapter. Follow her @PD1875.