When I first moved to San Diego there were two main things I was worried about: finding a decent apartment and working in nonprofit without having a network here. My husband quickly got the apartment thing worked out, but building my network was totally up to me.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m a naturally shy person. I think I pass my awkwardness off ok most of the time, but I get really anxious going to events where I don’t know anyone, which was the case when I moved to a new city.
It took me 10 minutes of sitting in my car and another 5 minutes outside the door to convince myself to walk into my first YNPN San Diego event, and it was a really laid back event! Now that I feel more established here, looking back I see that I utilized two very different networking techniques that ended up working to my advantage even though I had no idea I was doing them at the time.
There are generally two ways you can spend your time networking:
- Quantity: Go to every networking event know to man and meet as many people as you can.
- Quality: Make connections with a few people, but spend more time getting to each of them one on one.
Quantity will help you grow the size of your network, while quality will help you to strengthen your network.
I’m not saying I didn’t build quality relationships in the beginning, I definitely did! But my focus was more on meeting as many people as I could and talking to them to get the lay of the land here in San Diego. I joined YNPN which has been one of the best ways I could’ve built my network – it even led me to my new Board position at HandsOn San Diego!
Focusing on quantity first helped me get my feet on the ground, and helped my awkwardness at networking events because I finally started seeing familiar faces! But I really like getting to know people better, and I tend to be much less awkward one on one over coffee or wine
When I started my new job a few months ago, I knew I wanted to take the quality route to get to know our volunteers and partners so that I could build trust with them and find out how I could engage them in ways that fit their needs. That means finding out who they are by asking the Board and other staff members, calling or emailing each of them, and setting up a time to get together. This definitely takes more time, but is worth it as I am now creating a really strong network of people who know me personally, rather than people who have just heard my name before.
So how should you spend your time networking? My suggestion is a mix of both, and often your quantity efforts will lead to quality relationships.
What do you think about quantity versus quality in building your network? Are there are networking techniques you use?
If you’re an introvert like me, check out this great article from Forbes – An Introverts Guide to Networking.