Should You Join a Professional Business Networking Group?

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With all the emphasis on social networking, you might think that offline professional business networking groups have lost their shine. The truth is that networking groups of all stripes still have a place in building a business and establishing a reputation, but finding the right one for you might take some time and effort.

Just as those with strong networks are more likely to find a well-paying job more quickly, entrepreneurs with strong ties to their community or industry are likely to build their businesses more swiftly through networking.

Networking can help you find real estate, equipment, new hires, consultants and advisors, and even partnerships that you probably would not be able to locate on your own or with a web search. While you might not make tremendous sales or meet the mentor who can take your business to the next level at your first meeting, over time you might meet the person who will set you on the correct path for achieving your next target or introduce you to the method that will help you do your next big thing.

Here are 4 ways to make sure that your networking experience will push you in the right direction.

  • Always be prepared.

Have your business cards, your pitch, your firm handshake, your marketing materials, and so forth on hand for your next networking event. By being ready, you’ll demonstrate your capacity for preparedness and your ability to stay on top of things as well as make a great first impression. If you want to take things to the next level, you could volunteer to participate in community outreach on behalf of your business group or even set a goal to eventually have a position of leadership in your group.

  • Be interested and interesting.

We’ve all had the experience of meeting up with someone whose barely-concealed lack of enthusiasm felt like a personal affront, but when you make the determination to find everyone interesting, you have a better chance of breaking through that wall of indifference. You may not make an instant connection with everyone, but you can look for areas of commonality to generate a bond. When you connect with all kinds of people, you expand your network.

  • Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Attending a professional networking group can be a great way to develop skills that don’t come naturally to you. If you’re a bit of an introvert and dislike meeting new people, try becoming a greeter or part of the welcome group. If you fear public speaking, volunteer to coordinate or introduce guest speakers for your organization. If you usually like to take the role of organizer, try something new like setting up the room for events or clean-up crew. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and into new opportunities. You’ll meet new people and learn skills you didn’t even know you needed to know.

  • Reach out to others about opportunities.

When looking for networking opportunities, it’s common for many to think of finding connections for themselves rather than creating possibilities for others. In truth, the best way to help yourself is to help others either by facilitating introductions or recommending helpful collaborations. By promoting connections for others, you’ll be quietly building a strong network of people who have experienced your generosity and consideration, which increases your chances of your network of friends connecting you to opportunities. As writer and clinical psychologist  Arthur P. Ciaramicoli writes, “Doing good induces others to reciprocate.”

Networking is, true its name, dependent on exertion and effort, but by strengthening your connection to your community, you expand your field of influence. Over time you’ll develop bonds of trust and appreciation within your group, and your efforts will create growth and opportunity in your own life.

Professional networking groups are definitely worth the time and commitment if you’re looking for ways to grow as an entrepreneur. Pick the organization carefully and do sufficient research ahead of time, so that you can make the most of the time you spend growing your network.

By Andrew Patricio

June 15, 2016