A lot of us think networking can only be done online. And for the longest time, I felt the same.
If only it were as easy as setting up a Linkedin profile and looking for suitable jobs. Of course, that is also networking. However, a very large part of networking is what happens offline. It is usually successful as well.
When I quit my full-time job a couple of months ago to work independently, I wasn’t sure where to begin. But it came almost naturally. To begin with, my friends were the first people I approached. We sometimes tend to overlook the obvious. I spoke to my friends about the kind of work I wanted to do, what I was interested in and what I thought I was good at.
Even if your friends aren’t able to help you out immediately, they will at least keep you in mind the next time they hear of anything related.
It was through one such friend, who knew a freelance writer, that I got a few writing assignments. It wasn’t even something that had come to my mind before I spoke with my friend. I had just thought I would apply online and see what happens.
And don’t forget your colleagues you have worked with.
Another obvious route: reach out to relations and neighbours, who could provide a lead or two.
Since networking offline is not the easiest, there are a few things for one to keep in mind, going forward.
While there is a significant amount of back-n-forth attached to this process, keeping in touch with people is important. It is very easy for someone who is busy to forget easily.
Let’s say you are waiting for an ex-colleague to introduce you to someone. This person does not see you on a daily basis and very often, out of sight becomes out of mind. Maintaining some form of contact is the key here, whether it is via email, a quick phone call or even a text just saying hello.
A popular coffee shop chain has an inviting tagline: ‘a lot can happen over coffee’. This is true. Face to face meetings; human interaction, in other words, is something that goes a long way. Very often we forget people we have been re-introduced to, or have had chats with over the phone. The chances of forgetting someone we have met in person are slim. A face to face meeting, even a short one, will definitely prove to be more effective for networking and it also gives one the chance to know the other person better.
What’s also important is how one is able to pitch oneself. What’s the value-add that you bring to the table? It is important to be able to pitch yourself in a way where you are able to offer more.
Being perceptive and alert is another very important skill that comes in handy whilst networking. You may be at a party and meet someone who does interesting work and may, in turn, put you in touch with someone else.
Networking is how one cashes in on this opportunity. Try and get this person’s contact details and reach out to him later. Chance encounters like these sometimes turn out to be helpful. Even if this person isn’t able to help you out directly, he may introduce you to somebody who can.
In a similar situation, a friend of a friend put me in touch with someone who did some very interesting work. And although I did not take that job, it helped me see what was out there and whether it would be a good fit for me. In some cases, you may learn what you dislike. Even then, I did learn something about the direction I should take.
Finally, as the theory of six degrees of separation says: any person on the planet can be connected to another through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five others. Sounds easy, right.
Happy offline networking!