Yesterday night I had a conversation with a friend of mine that I hadn't seen in a long time and it has inspired me to write a post about networking. I have found that over the last couple years and as I get older, how powerful and valuble networking really is.
I have attended conferences and networking events since around 2002 and never really found value in this until around 2004. Granted, I was just barely learning the ropes and very "green" at the time, but I had no idea the value of networking almost 5 years ago. I was sent to many vendor related events, many conferences and such, my focus was to try to solicit business for my company at the time. What I didn't realize is how important it was to build my network of people that I knew and stay in touch with them.
Fast forward to now and the last year or so. I have been trying to attend conferences, networking events, meet-ups, meet and greets, and even inter-company related events. I have goals of attending these events, sometimes its for knowledge and almost always it is to expand my network.
Okay, so it is question time...Why are these events are so useful?!
Answer: Expanding your network is absolutely critical to your future successes, no matter what they be.
Chatting with my friend last night I really stressed the importance in this. Building your networking and laying a foundation for your own personal brand is extremely empowering, at least, in my eyes it is. Obviously, if you are young and shy, that is absolutely normal, but give it a go and try it out.
You might say to yourself, "well, I am still in school" or "I am just starting out." The truth is, typically people are very understanding and you never know the value you might have until you actually talk to people. I use to be this guy until 2004. I attended multiple events in which I didn't have a card, I didn't save the cards and I didn't keep in touch with those I met. To this day, I think of the relationships I could have maintained and wish I would have.
Of course, being the geek that I am, I will bring in "LinkedIn" and the social media aspects of it into play. Finding a place to stay in touch with people, use it as a "next-gen rolodex" and keep people updated of what's going on in your world is highly crucial. It all goes back to building your personal brand.
LinkedIn has been a lifesaver to me because I am able to maintain a contact list that is literally in real time keeping me updated with the happenings of the people in my network. Also, not that I am advocating buying a business account, but, business users are able to expand their network through features like introductions, in-mail, etc. Being able to connect with people outside your everyday network or someone that you would never really meet is just one more touch-point in your personal growth.
Truthfully, in the end, it's all about the relationships you make and maintain, bottom line.