There are plenty of blogs that talk about how to find work or how to earn money, but I find very few of them touch on the importance of networking, especially offline networking, mostly because those bloggers are content to not break out of their comfort zones and take it offline.
I’m a firm believer in conferences and networking events. Not only do they cut some of the loneliness that comes with working from one’s home, but they bring the opportunity to cultivate important relationships.
Case in point:
- Last year at South by Southwest Interactive, I had dinner with the BlogWorld team. The next day, they offered me a job as Conference Director.
- Last year after the same dinner, I accompanied the BlogWorld team to a party hosted by Wiley publishing. They Wiley people and I have been in close touch ever since. (And I may be dropping a very cool announcement soon.)
- At the first ever social media conference I landed a blogging job after talking with one of the exhibitors on the showroom floor.
- At subsequent conferences I made new friends, friends who I brain storm and collaborate with now. I also landed blogging and consulting gigs.
- Speaking a conferences, and taking the time to meet with and network with attendees afterward, helped to grow my reputation, drive traffic to my blog, and, yes, I landed a couple of clients as well.
You don’t have to attend a conference to network either. You can attend meetups, tweetups and professional networking events in your area. Plus, online networking via the social networks and organized chats are the perfect practice.
How did I do it?
- I didn’t use an elevator pitch. I had conversations with people. I didn’t ask for a job or even mention I was looking for a job. Eventually that came out in the conversation or during follow up calls after the events.
- I remain professional. Though I do enjoy dinner and drinks with friends and business acquaintances, I don’t get drunk or stay out late every night during conferences and other networking events. I’m not there to party. When I network, I’m coherent and don’t look as if I just woke up in a sewer.
- I’m friendly. Whether in the blogger lounge, the hallways or at a meetup, I try and say hello to as many people possible. I don’t try to pitch. I simply introduce myself and see where the conversation takes us.
See, here’s the thing about networking: Everyone thinks it’s so hard. That you have to put on a power suit and talk about business topics and the most business-y person wins. It’s not about being able to use the jargon and it’s not about schmoozing. It’s about making important connections and making a good impression. In many cases this simply means two people hitting it off during a conversation.
What’s keeping you from coming out from behind Twitter and Facebook and networking in person? What’s keeping you from taking your career or your blogging to a whole, new, major level?