When I made the decision to become self-employed, the first thing I knew I needed to work on was my networking skills.
I'm a naturally shy person so networking wasn't something that came easily to me. However, if I was going to be successful as a learning and development consultant, it was something I had to perfect.
The first event I attended probably wasn't the right choice but it was a good introduction to networking and was a good way to break the nerves of walking into a room of people that I didn't know. It wasn't very well attended but with only a handful of people there, I still gained some useful contacts and advice.
My second event was much larger and as I was no longer a networking virgin, it was much easier to strike up conversations with people. I even made sure that I left most people with a business card. The only area I still needed to perfect was my 2 minute introduction.
Anyway, I've now attended a number of events and am much more comfortable. So, what have I learned from this experience so far, well......
Getting the right network of people can really make a difference. The people in your network can help you solve a difficult problem by using their different experiences. They can also provide perspective and teach you new things.
There is always a good mixture of professions and experience at networking events so ensure you talk to as many people as possible as you never know when someone may inform you of new opportunities.
Building a network can take time but ensure you get a good mixture of contacts from different sectors. In order to build a network, you should attend meetings and events, you can usually find listings online for local networking opportunities.
Another way of building your networking is to join an online network, such as LinkedIn. This can help you expand your network beyond local contacts.
There is a lot to be gained from networking but it is important to remember that networking is a two-way street. Make sure you share what you know, your experience and skills with others.
Once you have built your network, it is important to maintain it. Keep in regular contact with your network, whether it be to check in on them or to share your skills and/or knowledge. Maintaining a network takes time and effort but the benefits can be great if done properly.
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