How to network like a boss

Oftentimes, managers will get promoted into a department and inherit a team of diverse personalities and working styles. We learn about the group and do our best to lead them. Sometimes, we have the privilege of building our own team, either through organizational growth or turnover. This is my favorite!

One of my favorite teams I’ve ever worked with was comprised of one long-standing employee and three others I hired over the course of three years. In the interview process, I tried my best to gauge culture fit. How would these different people interact with the rest of the team? I assessed this by including the rest of the team in the interviews and then relying on gut instinct. In a couple cases, I took chances on people who weren’t the perfect candidate on paper but had the drive and culture fit I was looking for. They were two of the best hires I’ve ever made.

One way to build a solid team is to get to know people in the field so that when a job opens up, you immediately think of a couple people who could be a good fit. Time saved! Yes, I am referring to the dreaded networking.

As a well-documented introvert (I’m an INTJ in Myers-Briggs), the work networking makes me break out in an instant sweat. Talking to strangers?! My worst nightmare. But as a newbie to the community, I was forced to get out there in order to build friendships, clients and business partners. Here’s how I did it:

  1. Start with one person. There’s got to be one person out there that you feel comfortable speaking with. Tell them your interests, learn theirs, maybe document it in Excel and ask if they know anyone else you could speak with. Living in Ohio/the Midwest for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised with how willing people were to chat.
  2. Send cold emails. Again, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the responses from cold emails. Make it personal – share something about yourself and what interests you about them – and take a chance. What’s the worst that could happen? They don’t respond? I’ve had about a 40% response rate from cold emails sent to organizations I’m interested in working with. Not bad!
  3. Mine your LinkedIn network. Connect with those you speak with and if they don’t offer an introduction to someone you’re interested in, simply ask! People are so deeply connected they often forget who they’re connected to. LinkedIn is your BFF (and the app is great to surf while you’re mindlessly watching TV at night.)
  4. Don’t ask people to coffee to “pick their brain”. People are busy, and if the person you want to know is hugely successful and intelligent, they probably have better things to do than simply hand you their hard-earned knowledge. Bring something to the table! Maybe you want to volunteer for the nonprofit where they sit on the board or maybe you could offer their company your SEO services. Whatever it is, make it dually beneficial.
  5. Attend those dreaded networking events. A couple months ago I got invited to a women’s networking event. I pursuaded my friend to join me but after a hard day, she bailed, leaving me to walk into a room of women all alone. I stood awkwardly looking at my phone, face turning redder as more women entered and started chatting. I sent an emoji-filled text to my husband, then promptly put my phone away and marched over to a table and sat down with two women. I introduced myself and my business and lo and behold – we had a connection in common! Door: opened. This was SO outside my comfort zone – trust me – but I left that meeting with two dozen business cards, motivation, inspiration and confidence.
  6. Keep in touch. Don’t let your one Starbucks rendevous be the only time you connect. Drop them an email when you see a news article about their industry. Congratulate them if you see they’ve been promoted. Share job openings at your company.

Building a network isn’t easy. I’ve been in Cincinnati for two years and while there was a period where I set weekly networking goals (e.g. send emails to three new people, have coffee with one new person, find one event to attend), I’m constantly keeping my ears open for shared interests and commonalities. It’s a long-game, people. Go forth and meet!

Connect with me on LinkedIn!