Developing a strong network, means building relationships. Networking is not about obtaining a stack of business cards and soliciting help when you need it. Networking is about building relationships and establishing connections between people where acquaintanceships and friendships can develop.
While there are different schools of thought regarding mixing business and social life, I have found that business networking and social networking overlap immensely.
Because of the nature of business networking, the process can be approached the same way a person would when working to expand his or her social network. As seen in the first installment of this networking series many of the events and activities that were suggested for developing your general, business and social network are all equal opportunities to build both friendships and business relationships.
Without going into too much detail about how to “meet new people”, let’s talk about the more subtle aspects of social interaction.
Rapport: When you frequent a certain store, or bar, or event, you are likely to see and interact with the same people, this can be a store clerk, bartender, or event-goers like you. Theses individual interactions, while seemingly fleeting, are in reality an interconnect series of interactions. These interactions can be the basis of a new relationship that can grow in depth based on the frequency and duration of each interaction. This is because social interactions are generally based off of the concept of familiarity. As humans, we find comfort in what is familiar and habitual. Therefore if you frequent a certain place, be sure to interact with those in that venue. Over time, you will develop new relationships that can lead anywhere.
Groups: Mutual friends and acquaintances are great ways to start meeting new people. In these situations, there already is common ground so it is easier to start that relationship. As already mentioned, the idea of familiarity is also present here. Mutual friends and acquaintances allow for easier opportunities to establish a new relationship because there is a sense of increased familiarity based on the fact that there is already a common bond.
Transparency: This is a key part about expanding your network. Transparency refers to the idea that in creating new relationships it is important to be open about what you are interested in. This helps to forge new relationships based on common interests or needs. An example of this is talking about current projects or career goals that you have. This opens a channel for new contacts to learn more about you as a person, thus creating a stronger bond of familiarity and also allows them to suggest new ideas to help add to your current resources that are related to your interests. That being said, it is equally important to reach out and help your new contacts and friends by accessing your knowledge on the topic of interest and suggesting new ideas for their potential benefit if it is within your means.
As always, keep an open mind and go with the flow. You never know who you will meet!
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