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5 Keys to Building Networks Over Time

5 Keys to Building Networks Over Time

The purpose of professional networking is to gain information, increase your visibility in your field, and establish personal connections that will help you advance in your career.  No matter how much you love your job, you should always be looking for ways to expand your networks because, ideally, your contacts will follow you from position to position.  A strong network allows you to get advice from trusted sources, to keep your professional knowledge current, to find career opportunities, and to support the careers of others.

Look for Contacts Everywhere

Your network should have lots of variety; individuals from different companies, career levels, and professions can add a range of perspectives.  Keeping in touch with your college friends who might be in different companies and industries is a great way to populate your network.  Joining a professional association in your field and regularly attending its events is also a smart idea.  Finally, investigate your company’s sponsored programs; many organizations provide opportunities for individuals to network within the company.  Training events, visits from management, guest speakers, or various types of interest-based events can yield the same type of contacts as an external event.

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Take One Step at a Time

Know that it takes time to authentically populate your network.  But also know that each new contact is a step in the right direction.  When I first got into educating people on twentysomething workplace issues, it was startling how helpful I found just one meeting of the Chicago chapter of the American Society for Training and Development.  I walked out of the event with business cards for several potential clients and mentors.  My network increased after only one event.

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Be Strategic

Before going to such an event, think about what you hope to get out of attending.  Is it general knowledge?  Is it a new contact in your field?  Or perhaps you are looking for someone to provide input on one of your projects?  Understand who the speakers will be at the event and how you might contact them or access their materials in advance of or after the event.  Also, learn what other companies and individuals might be at the event.  Prepare a few questions that you want to explore, and set a goal to answer them at the event. For example, if you want to do an informational interview—a thirty-minute conversation with an expert on a new development in your field—your goal may be to find someone at the event with that type of expertise.

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Be Personable

Many experts are willing to speak and share their knowledge, but some may not be as willing.  Don’t become discouraged.  It may take a few attempts at building your network to make a personal connection. Once you have received an initial response and are moving forward with an interaction—whether it’s in person or via e-mail or phone—be friendly, respectful, and conscious of the contact’s time constraints.  Confirm your contact’s available time and the topic you want to cover.  If you have the opportunity to sit down with a contact in person, remember to make eye contact, smile, shake hands firmly, and exchange business cards.  Ask thoughtful questions and listen carefully to the answers.

Follow Up and Return the Favor

If you are meeting over coffee or a meal, when the check comes, simply say to your contact,  “I invited you here today, so this is my treat.”  This, combined with a handwritten thank-you note, will make the best possible impression and leave the door open for future follow-up—which you should do, of course!  If your contact gave you any advice or suggested a course of action, touch base every few months with an update on your progress.  And since effective networking always involves give and take, think about ways you can help your contact in return.

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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

10 Ways To Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone And Enjoy Taking Risks

10 Ways To Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone And Enjoy Taking Risks

The ability to take risks by stepping outside your comfort zone is the primary way by which we grow. But we are often afraid to take that first step.

In truth, comfort zones are not really about comfort, they are about fear. Break the chains of fear to get outside. Once you do, you will learn to enjoy the process of taking risks and growing in the process.

Here are 10 ways to help you step out of your comfort zone and get closer to success:

1. Become aware of what’s outside of your comfort zone

What are the things that you believe are worth doing but are afraid of doing yourself because of the potential for disappointment or failure?

Draw a circle and write those things down outside the circle. This process will not only allow you to clearly identify your discomforts, but your comforts. Write identified comforts inside the circle.

2. Become clear about what you are aiming to overcome

Take the list of discomforts and go deeper. Remember, the primary emotion you are trying to overcome is fear.

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How does this fear apply uniquely to each situation? Be very specific.

Are you afraid of walking up to people and introducing yourself in social situations? Why? Is it because you are insecure about the sound of your voice? Are you insecure about your looks?

Or, are you afraid of being ignored?

3. Get comfortable with discomfort

One way to get outside of your comfort zone is to literally expand it. Make it a goal to avoid running away from discomfort.

Let’s stay with the theme of meeting people in social settings. If you start feeling a little panicked when talking to someone you’ve just met, try to stay with it a little longer than you normally would before retreating to comfort. If you stay long enough and practice often enough, it will start to become less uncomfortable.

4. See failure as a teacher

Many of us are so afraid of failure that we would rather do nothing than take a shot at our dreams.

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Begin to treat failure as a teacher. What did you learn from the experience? How can you take that lesson to your next adventure to increase your chance of success?

Many highly successful people failed plenty of times before they succeeded. Here’re some examples:

10 Famous Failures to Success Stories That Will Inspire You to Carry On

5. Take baby steps

Don’t try to jump outside your comfort zone, you will likely become overwhelmed and jump right back in.

Take small steps toward the fear you are trying to overcome. If you want to do public speaking, start by taking every opportunity to speak to small groups of people. You can even practice with family and friends.

Take a look at this article on how you can start taking baby steps:

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The Number One Secret to Life Success: Baby Steps

6. Hang out with risk takers

There is no substitute for this step. If you want to become better at something, you must start hanging out with the people who are doing what you want to do and start emulating them. (Here’re 8 Reasons Why Risk Takers Are More Likely To Be Successful).

Almost inevitably, their influence will start have an effect on your behavior.

7. Be honest with yourself when you are trying to make excuses

Don’t say “Oh, I just don’t have the time for this right now.” Instead, be honest and say “I am afraid to do this.”

Don’t make excuses, just be honest. You will be in a better place to confront what is truly bothering you and increase your chance of moving forward.

8. Identify how stepping out will benefit you

What will the ability to engage in public speaking do for your personal and professional growth? Keep these potential benefits in mind as motivations to push through fear.

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9. Don’t take yourself too seriously

Learn to laugh at yourself when you make mistakes. Risk taking will inevitably involve failure and setbacks that will sometimes make you look foolish to others. Be happy to roll with the punches when others poke fun.

If you aren’t convinced yet, check out these 6 Reasons Not to Take Life So Seriously.

10. Focus on the fun

Enjoy the process of stepping outside your safe boundaries. Enjoy the fun of discovering things about yourself that you may not have been aware of previously.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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