Connect by Serving. Your first motivation for getting involved with the community should not be to grow your network. Choose a cause or organization that you are truly passionate about. As you get involved you will naturally meet others and create relationships based on the organizations or issues that you support.
Start by packing lunches, serving soup, picking up trash, washing dogs, visiting the elderly or whatever the base level of service is. You may want to serve on a board but hands on service is where the best connections are made, through experiences. Earn some street cred in the trenches before trying to jump to a leadership position.
Service does build your network but use your heart as your guide. As you build your network, consider how to help each person by connecting them with someone else first.
This approach to service and networking takes time but you can start today. Who do you know and how can you help them?
Serve to Connect. We all know connectors. They’re the people who regularly ask us to meet for coffee, who are always introducing us to new people and things, who are great at staying in touch. They’re the people that know their strengths and weaknesses and surround themselves with complimentary people.
Be an intentional connector by focusing on these things:
- How can I help?
- Frame your mind to consider how you can help the other person through all interactions: who should they meet, what groups should they join, what should they read, who should they follow, what jobs should they apply for, what organizations should they serve?
- Review your network
- Once a month remind yourself who you know, connect with those you haven’t in a while and think about who in your network should meet.
- Don’t discount anyone
- Don’t say no to a coffee meeting, you may be surprised.
- This includes family and friends, being a connector doesn’t have to be about business. Think about bringing together different groups of friends or helping younger family members with career planning.
- Don’t hesitate to connect people of different generations. Your network is valuable regardless of your age.
- This includes you. You may not realize the value you bring or what your network holds until you use this perspective.
- When in doubt, refer.
- Focus on your strengths. Don’t waste time on projects that aren’t a great fit for you and your skills. As you make yourself available you will receive more and more requests. You may not always be available and you may not be the best person to help. Let your network help you. Do you know someone else with a more appropriate skill set or who is looking for a new project? It will benefit everyone involved to identify the best person to help.
- Keep asking, “Who do you know that I should meet?”
- End every meeting or interaction by asking who else you should be talking to or meeting with.
Amanda Rogalski is a proud alumna earning both her undergraduate degree in marketing and her graduate degree in communications from Grand Valley. She has spent her career on both the corporate and agency side of marketing and public relations. She currently lives in Chicago, works as a brand consultant and teaches communications at DePaul University.