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If you take a look at your network, you’ll probably notice that the majority of people you know in a business capacity work in the same field or industry as you. This makes sense because most of us network with peers, potential leads and partners related to our brand and services. Having a narrow network, however, could restrict your career in the longer term.
If your network is too small or not diversified, your chances of, for example, changing your career or moving into new sectors in the future are slimmer. If the people that make up your circle are mostly company colleagues and your company does a round of layoffs, you could, find yourself in a difficult position where you have nobody outside of the company to turn to for new career opportunities.
So how can you diversify your professional circle in ways which will give you new connections in more markets, open you up to new ideas, and create longer term opportunities?
1) Examine Your Network
Take a deep dive into your current circle. There are lots of tools available to sales professionals to tap into, and evaluate their existing networks. Outside of company-owned data such as corporate email accounts and CRMs are personal social selling resources such as LinkedIn Facebook and Twitter. Did you know for, example, that you can export all of your LinkedIn connections? Info from the download can include email, phone number, address, job title and company website. You can also export data from Facebook and Twitter. Depending on how active you are on social media, that could represent 100s or 1000s of connections to sort through and identify opportunities.
Take note of the following:
Include the people you spend the majority of your time with and then add in individuals who fit into your “outer circle”. This outer circle can include the people who are important in your professional life and who you don’t necessarily interact with on a daily basis.
If you notice a heavy emphasis on individuals who are similar to you and working in the same industry or company, then that’s a sign you should try to build your network outside of your sector.
Think of joining groups based on interests you have outside of work, or reach out to past co-workers or friends from college who went into different industries than you. You may choose to reach out through a phone call, email or on LinkedIn to set up a meeting to get together and reconnect.
2. Make Time for In-Person Networking
If you don’t schedule it, it will likely get pushed down to the bottom of your to-do list. If you make a deliberate effort to schedule time for networking each week, then it will happen. This could include meetups, coffee meetings, going to events in the community or volunteer committee meetings.
There are lots of excellent social networking tools available to facilitate in-person networking such as meetup.com, Eventbrite, and Facebook event pages. Imagine you live in Calgary, you are a sales pro in a printing company and want to grow your network to include tech pros. In 2017 it is as easy as performing a local search with terms such as 'tech pros' or 'tech and sales' to find long lists of groups and upcoming networking events.
Whatever you do, make sure you make time for networking so that you have no excuse why it doesn’t show up in your weekly schedule. If you need a refresher on networking skills, check out this article.
3. Ask For Referrals
Ask yourself who in your networks could be 'connectors'? Who are those peers who could help to introduce you to targets?
A referral is a powerful type of introduction and can expand your network in a very organic and natural way. For example, if you want to meet more entrepreneurs, reach out to an entrepreneur you know and ask for them to connect you with one person. Continue to do this and you will see how quickly this can snowball into several new introductions and connections in just a short while.
There’s No Time Like the Present
While it’s probably easier to interact with people similar to yourself, it’s also almost a sure-fire way to set yourself up to have a narrow network and limit future opportunities.
By taking the time to follow the steps above, you will purposefully expand your network, meet new people, gain new insights, learn new things and prepare yourself for opportunities for further success. So what are you waiting for? Jump on meetup.com, eventbrite, LinkedIn or another network of choice and start finding business events and groups which can take your take your future career aspirations to the next level.
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