Hello SOTGC community,
With our choices on networking groups growing by the day, it is important to ensure that you are dedicating your time to the right group. One way to do this is to evaluate who is in the group, which was the topic of last month’s blog. Make sure that you like the members, have things in common other than work, and that the members are professionals that have the ability to introduce you to your ideal client. Part 1 of The 5 Ws of Networking discussed the “Who” component in detail. This post will discuss the “What” of networking.
So what is networking? To me networking is the ability to connect and collaborate with professionals of influence. It is about building a relationship over time, not about who can hand out the most business cards. For me, networking is a slow and steady process. I do not attend networking events expecting to meet a client with immediate needs, nor do I expect to meet someone new that will refer me instantly. Instead, I look to connect with individuals that I already know so that I stay foremost in their mind, and meet other professionals that I would enjoy building a relationship with. The referral part will come naturally over time.
The next part of the equation is what do you want from a networking group and what are you willing to contribute? In last month’s post, I mentioned “give before you get.” What are you willing to do for others? I belong to one networking group that is exclusively for people in the commercial real estate industry. It is unlikely that I will find my ideal client there or even people that can refer me to my ideal client because, as a broker, I’m usually first to hear about a tenant’s relocation. Since I am one of the first to know about the requirement, I’m an excellent referral source for the many vendors that attend networking events, such as contractors, furniture providers, or architects. So what do I get out of it? I get support from other females in our male-dominated industry. I get the chance to build relationships with vendors to whom I can refer my clients, and I gather knowledge by talking to others about industry changes. I belong to other organizations where my “what” is more about reaching new clients, but this particular organization serves an important purpose for me.
My relationships in this group grew largely as a result of what I was willing to contribute. I started out by joining a committee and assisting in our event planning. After being an active committee member, I was asked to serve on the board. A board seat requires a significant time dedication, but it also makes you more visible within the organization and allows you to connect more frequently with the other leaders. I adopt the principle of quality over quantity – it is better to be heavily involved in a few groups, then to participate minimally in many groups. Serving on this board was gratifying in itself, but because of my leadership role, this group nominated me for San Diego Metro’s 40 under 40 award in 2012 and I was fortunate enough to be selected as one of the 40 recipients that received this honor.
The last component of “what” is what does the organization stand for? The commercial real estate organization that I referenced stands for supporting women in commercial real estate. Another organization that I belong to adopts the mission of “providing a space for professionals to connect, collaborate, and grow.” Whatever the mission or purpose happens to be, make sure that you are in alignment with it.
Next month, in the final part of this blog series, I’ll address the When, Where, and Why of networking.
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