Let’s face it: few people enjoy networking, and I didn’t leave that word out of the title by accident. The routine can seem so forced – handshakes, pleasantries, exchanging business cards – but there’s no denying the value in getting to know your peers. Here are five reasons you should spend a little time at local networking events, even if you’re the socially anxious type like me.
You don't know everything
I hope this goes without saying, but there’s always someone out there who’s better at something than you. That’s true for graphic design, search engine optimization, and (especially in my case) blogging.
In Oklahoma City, regular events like those hosted by OKC Social make it easy to meet new people who work in the social media field, and members of the advertising, marketing, and public relations fields often make appearances as well. Oklahoma City is also home to Confluence Conference, bringing in internationally recognized experts in a variety of digital marketing verticals. Last month, liquidfish’s social media team and I spent two days learning, eating, and drinking with new friends from all over the country. And speaking of friends:
You can always use more friends
Not to get sappy here, but friendships are everything in my personal life, and that extends to my professional life as well. I’ve met some of my best friends at work, and while that isn’t the case for everyone, it doesn’t hurt having someone to call up when you want to grab lunch or after-work drinks. One caveat is that meeting people can be and often is awkward.
Introductions are good practice
Meeting people takes practice, and as with most things, practice makes perfect. Putting yourself out there in professional situations is uncomfortable for some, but if being able to communicate well is part of your job – and I promise it is – it’s a skill you should probably invest in. Think about how you present yourself, your organization, and your responsibilities when asked. And take time to listen with intent! There’s nothing much more embarrassing than having to ask someone’s name for the second time. Or third.
Networking builds new business
The foundation of business is relationships, something my friends in business development and sales already know all too well. Local events are an avenue by which you may stumble upon leads, and I use “may” deliberately. Hearing someone mention that they want to build a following on social media explicitly is one thing, but forcing your sales pitch into a conversation is intrusive and transparent.
It’s said that the predicted outcome of presidential races can be decided by asking voters who they’d rather have a beer with. Not to compare business development with our nation’s highest office, but why not be a fun drinking companion? Don’t start conversations with, “How’s your brand’s online presence?” Instead, try asking a question you’d want to hear the answer to off the clock.
Connections foster new opportunities
It never hurts to have options. Not to restate the importance of relationships yet again, but connections are an invaluable resource in a job hunt. A network of peers amplifies your voice in an already cacophonous market, and it’s unlikely that you’ll meet someone who can help you find the next step in your career at your current job. In these conversations, let people know you possess valuable knowledge and expertise, but be humble about it – no one likes a know-it-all.
I hope this blog encourages some of you to get out of your comfort zone and enrich your industry just by participating in it. Head over to Twitter and let us know what I might have missed!