This article was based on episode 259 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Members of the Modern Manager community get 50% off a 1-year subscription of keepwith. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.
I love meeting new people. My husband and I joke that we’re always on the lookout for a new friend. But honestly, I struggle with keeping in touch. Yet I recently learned that real networking is all about the follow up. It’s about both building and maintaining our relationships. So what’s a busy modern manager to do? How do we find the time to both build connections and keep these relationships flourishing?
Networking expert Megan Burke Roudebush joins me to share tips for transforming your meet and greet opportunities into authentic connections that benefit both parties, personally and professionally. Megan is the Founder + CEO of keepwith, which has built new technology to help the world network better. keepwith is solving for human isolation. Megan is a speaker and writer on networking topics for national publications, including Fast Company, Thrive, TLNT and Law360.com, and has been featured in global publications for her networking expertise.
Here, Megan breaks down the steps for becoming a prolific networker who can build trust and rapport with everyone she meets.
CARVE OUT THE TIME
Networking doesn't just happen when you’re out and about. A key aspect of strengthening the relationships you have and connecting to the right people happens at your desk. If you don’t intentionally make the time, networking tasks will invariably end up on the bottom of your to-do list. Megan suggests scheduling deliberate networking time into your calendar every week. Thirty to sixty minutes is ideal, but the most important thing is to dedicate brain space to it and to show up week after week to work on it.
To make the best use of this networking time, Megan recommends the following activities.
Invest In Who You Already Know
Start by considering who you already know. Who are your most important contacts? Who are your biggest champions? Think about ways you can support these relationships further. Make a list of ways in which you can be helpful and contribute to others. It may be by assisting them with their resume or connecting them to someone they want to meet. Reflect on what you have to offer your network and reach out to show your willingness to help. You may find that you want to invest more time in optimizing the relationships you already have, rather than starting new ones.
Create Networking Goals
Keep a running list of people you are interested in meeting. Set networking goals for both building and maintaining your network. These should be based on business or professional goals. You can make a list of what would be helpful for you to get from your network. This might be learning about a topic, finding an accountant, or meeting other parents of similarly aged kids. As Megan explains, our networks are our most important assets, no matter what is happening in our personal and professional lives.
Complete Any Follow Up
As Megan explains, you can’t go to the gym once a year and expect year-round results. Likewise, you can’t just meet someone once and expect the trust to be there. If you haven’t yet completed your follow up tasks from a previous conversation, this is the time to do it. Building the muscles of maintaining relationships is the secret sauce to becoming an unstoppable, beloved networker.
MAKE IT AUTHENTIC
We want our networking experiences to feel relational, not transactional. When you start a new conversation, ask open-ended questions so that you can get to know the person in a deeper way. Ask people outright if there is anyone they are looking to meet and how you can be helpful to them. Also be sure to find out their preferred method of communication.
Megan insists that we should always walk away from a conversation with at least one small piece of meaningful homework. If you offered to send them an article that you discussed, send it! If they didn’t have a specific ask at the time, extend your willingness to help in the future. This follow up is what elevates the conversation from a one-time event to the beginning of a relationship.
NETWORK INSIDE YOUR ORGANIZATION
Megan spoke about how internal networking is a competitive advantage for companies. Networking within your own organization is important, yet so few of us do it right. Figure out who (or what roles) you want to meet, and why. Then ask others within your organization to recommend three people you should have conversations with for that specific goal. Ask each of those people to suggest the next three people you should speak to. When you reach out, state the purpose of the conversation and how long you expect it to take. This sets the stage for a productive networking session.
ENCOURAGE YOUR TEAM TO NETWORK
Encourage your teammates to engage in networking, too. If they feel uneasy at first, remind them that networking is just another word for relationship building. Help them identify goals and let them know it's your job as their manager to help find the right people to connect with. Model networking by asking them who they want to meet, and help make these introductions. Pro tip: make sure to get an opt in from both people before you make an introduction.
Our rolodex is one of the most important assets to our lives, yet so few of us have been taught how to network effectively. We need to take stock of all the amazing people we already know, and consider ways in which we can nourish those relationships. We then need to look forward to who we want to meet, and make sure to offer our willingness to help to the people in our lives. Keep track of these connections and dedicate weekly time to enhancing these relationships. By building these networking muscles, we create an incredible support system to achieve our goals and to help other people achieve theirs.
KEEP UP WITH MEGAN
Get 50% off a 1-year subscription of keepwith when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at themodernmanager.com/join.
This article was based on episode 259 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.