Image via Shutterstock/Oleksiy Mark

6 Simple Ways to Expand Your Network

A quick how to for meeting new people and making lasting connections.

It can feel really overwhelming to think about meeting new people. How can you expand your network when you can barely keep up with the people you know?

I completely understand that you have a certain relational capacity and that over investing in meeting new people is not a good use of time. However, through recent conversations with new additions to my network, I’ve been reminded of the incredible importance of expanding my horizons in this area.

New connections are the life blood of your career that can open up new worlds of opportunity to you.

If you’re someone who struggles with making time for this activity, I want to share two key principles with you and then a few tips.

Principle #1: Routine is key. If you don’t naturally make connections with new people, you need to set up some type of routine to make this happen on a regular basis. That could be something as small as spending 10 minutes on LinkedIn every Friday afternoon or as big as joining the leadership team in a professional organization. The key is that you want to have regular prompts to spend time with new people.

Principle #2: Pace yourself. Unless you are in a field like sales or business development, meeting new people will not always be your highest priority. It’s completely reasonable to set a limit for yourself and to spread out meetings over the proper amount of time. For instance, you may decide that you will have 1 to 2 phone conversations with new people each week and that you will attend one event each month.

Once you have those two principles planted firmly in your mind, you can use these six tips to start connecting with more people:

  • Start by contacting people you already know or who you had promised to follow up with in the past. Although you may feel a bit embarrassed about the amount of time that has passed, most people will be happy to hear from you and rekindle the connection.
  • Ask for introductions from others. Cool people generally know cool people. It’s completely acceptable to ask if someone might be willing to write a quick e-mail introduction that could lead you to setting up a phone conversation or face-to-face meeting.
  • Talk to new people when you see them. This may seem beyond obvious, but as a general role, we like to stick to our comfort zones. That means that even at networking events our natural inclination is to only spend time with the people we already know. When you’re out and about–at a meeting, at a conference, at a networking event, or even at lunch–consider saying, “Hello,” to the people around you. Not all may lead to good connections, but you could have some big breakthroughs for relatively little effort.
  • Use social media strategically. Social media typically doesn’t lead to deep connections with people, but when used strategically, it can be incredibly helpful in facilitating an initial introduction. One of my friends, Shama Hyder Kabani, recently released her 2012 edition of “the zen of social media marketing” that contains incredibly practical advice on how to use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and other social media tools for business. If you’re looking for step-by-step practical advice, I recommend that you check it out.
  • Plan in one-on-one time. Talking to someone for 3 minutes as you wait in line for food rarely leads to a pay off. But scheduling a phone call or a lunch meeting for even 30 minutes can have a huge return on investment. It’s completely reasonable to plan these one-on-one meetings even a month out from when you meet. But the important point is that you get it on the calendar so that you’ll be prompted to make it a priority.
  • Follow up in 24 hours. I make it a personal goal to follow up on anything that I said I would do within 24 hours of meeting someone. This helps me to take advantage of the benefits from the connection and to keep the professional relationship moving forward.

I hope these tips open you up to new and better connections this year!

Elizabeth Grace Saunders is the author of The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment: How to Achieve More Success With Less Stress and is the founder of Real Life E Time Coaching & Training. For more time investment tips, check out www.ScheduleMakeover.com.

Image via Shutterstock/Oleksiy Mark

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