Close your eyes and imagine you’ve just stepped out of civilization and into a vast wilderness. You’ve arrived here to explore, do things your own way, and build something unique.
(You don’t have to literally close your eyes. That might make it hard to keep reading.)
If you climb the mountains to your east, there might be bears ahead. If you head northwest, there could be swampland and giant snakes. Or baby pandas. Or capybaras.
As you choose which way to go and which set of challenges you’d rather face, you get to balance your strengths, skills, and interests against the potential risks and rewards – and by the time you find yourself reclining by the fire, cuddling a baby panda, how you got there is your secret and your triumph.
That all sounds awesome.
But have you ever noticed that whenever we set foot on an adventure, there’s somebody standing at the edge of the wilderness trying to sell us a map?
When we dream of stepping off the 9-5 treadmill and into the entrepreneurial wilderness, it’s so we can do things our own way. (At least at first.)
Be your own boss. Build your own team. Break the rules.
We also know we can do all that more easily if we build a network of people to help us reach our goals.
That’s all good!
It’s when we think of HOW to network that the map sellers get us hooked (and overwhelmed).
Everywhere you look, there’s another be-all-end-all solution to the whole networking thing. Solutions that sound like:
That’s not to say that map sellers are peddling phony advice. Each of them may very well have reached their own version of seven-figure success!
But their route is their route. And what’s a smooth and level path for them may feel like climbing Mt. Everest for you.
You are your own GPS device. You’re the only one who knows exactly where you are, and what path is best for you.
(If you’ve ever faked a bright and cheerful conference call in your pajamas when you haven’t showered or left your house for two days, you know what we’re talking about.)
As you weigh all of the paths toward building stronger relationships in your business, ask yourself some tough questions about both your personality and your schedule.
Are you an introvert, an extrovert, or an ambivert?
Where and when do you feel most comfortable getting yourself out there to make connections?
Do cocktail party events where guests mingle informally put you at ease, or do you feel like you’re being thrown into a pit of vipers?
Are you constantly on social media ready to give advice to people in your industry, or do you wish you could throw away your phone?
Can you craft smart and interesting emails that get the attention of experts in your field, or do you spend hours struggling to know what to write?
Be brutally honest. If you want to maximize your results, it’s smart to understand where you shine, and stop comparing yourself to others.
Identifying your strengths and knowing what to walk away from will take some time.
It’s important to actually spend that time and do those things, or else you’ll have too small a sample to accurately determine whether or not your networking techniques are paying off.
As you explore different ways to network, modify them according to your personality and schedule.
If you’re an introvert and casual mingling feels like being thrown in a pit of vipers, why not try more structured in-person networking?
(For example, some events are small enough that everyone gets to introduce themselves to the group. This makes it more likely that people will seek you out later when there’s mingling.)
If you love giving advice online but also are disciplined about getting away from your electronic devices, why not try Facebook Live to give advice, and answer questions in a designated time frame?
If you’re an extrovert, and composing emails full of carefully crafted copy just isn’t your style, why not meet people face-to-face at events first, so your follow-ups over email can be more informal?
Remember that most map sellers focus on the result, and not all pesky little details on the path to success. We only see the straight line to the destination, without any messy undergrowth on the trail.
So when you start on whatever you decide is your path, actually dive right in – don’t just dip a tentative toe in the water.
Don’t just go to one event and say you’ve networked.
Don’t hit send on an email and then not follow up a week later.
Don’t cuddle a panda before she gets to know you first. (Their claws are kind of sharp.)
Do be persistent – and follow through on your choices until it is absolutely clear where they are leading you!
As you get to know where you shine, and the networking methods that give you the best results, create a networking map that you can regularly follow as part of your business development.
A map of two monthly in-person cocktail parties + weekly email follow-ups + one hour of daily advice in Facebook Groups may help an ambivert build one high-level business relationship and generate ten new client leads each month.
(It all depends on the person.)
Stay curious about the other paths that may open up before you, but know that what matters most about your map is that it gets you where you want to go on your terms.
When we built Edgar, we wanted to give you a tool that magnifies your strengths while conserving your valuable time and energy.
But Edgar’s not a map! His many arms help get your brilliance in front of as many people in your network as possible – but they don’t tell you which way to go.
Only YOU get to decide the best path for yourself – and there isn’t any objectively “right” or “wrong” way to go.
With that in mind – how do you prefer growing your network?
Are you an in-person type?
Do you do your best networking on social media?
Or maybe you mix it up with a lot of different types?
Let us know how YOU network in the comments below!