- Find a mentor. Look at people that you admire, who are successful in whatever it is you want to accomplish through networking, and find out where they network so that you can follow in their footsteps (Bonus: If you are reaching out to these people to ask their opinion, you are already networking!)
- Define your purpose. Understand why you are networking. Is it to gather knowledge, make new friends, find a job, raise capital, gain influence, be seen within your industry/field/etc. There are probably 101 different reasons why people network and you need to understand your why before you can figure out your how.
- Set some goals. Decide what you want to gain from networking before you put yourself out there. Having a goal in mind will keep you focused on the bigger picture.
- Make a networking plan. List all of your reasons for networking, determine the potential return on investment in each of your options, rank your options, and then put the corresponding level of effort into the ones you choose to pursue.
- Investigate online options. Take some time to understand and learn about your online options and do some research on how you will you benefit from joining a new social networking site. A recent survey conducted with Eagle contractors showed that most regularly used LinkedIn and Facebook with Google+ and Twitter the next most used social media.
- Be prepared for every event. Have a plan in place before setting foot in the door including setting some goals specific to the event. Start with easy goals and as you get better, expand on those goals.
- Start your own network. Find a few colleagues or friends with similar goals and interests and ask them to find a few more people to help each other out. If everyone finds a few people to add to the mix, you'll have a very rich network before you know it!
- Invest the time. Like anything else in your life, you have to make time for networking. This means planning to make time to network just like you would make time to grocery shop or buy a new suit. It's not a secret that we all make time for important things in our lives, so if you add a timeline to your networking plan you are much more likely to accomplish your goals.
- Have fun! People will be more likely to talk to you if you are a positive force.
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Just like any other business professional, Independent Contractors can benefit from building their networks in so many ways. Building business contacts can ensure a steady flow of projects. Gaining insights from other industry peers can help contractors understand what new projects are up and coming. Building a network of contractors in your space can benefit you in terms of creativity, offering a forum to pitch ideas, solve problems and provide referrals to roles within a project team.
So how do you get started?