"I have no social network, so how do I network?"
For one reason or another, you may find yourself completely lacking a social network that could support you with switching up your career. And I COMPLETELY get that because I've been there too.
There are SO many reasons why people could be missing a social networking circle:
Living in a rural location
Just moved to a new city
Introverted personality (aka big groups may cause severe anxiety)
Intimidated to meet new people
Uncomfortable in virtual settings
Uncomfortable with in-person meetings
Don't know what to say when you meet someone new
You are a parent and, literally, don't have time for this
You work full time and stopped caring about networking ten years ago because you have a job?
…….INSERT ANYTHING HERE!!!!
Here’s the truth: You need to build a network when you do not NEED to network.
That is right. The best time to invest the time and energy into building a network (and maintaining your network) is when you do NOT NEED it.
Sounds kinda weird, right?
If you want to continue to take steps forward and elevate your career BY DESIGN, you'll need to start building your network.
Sooner rather than later, too!
Building the Right Social Network
That's right – I called it building the right social network for yourself. Just like you should design every aspect of your career, you'll want to put in work to surround yourself with a good social group.
If you're starting from scratch, or if you want to up your networking skills, try to do the following:
1) Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
I'll say it again – louder for those in the back: you're going to HAVE to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
If you really want to make a change, you must get comfortable being uncomfortable.
First, recognize that doing the same thing over and over is going to the same result. If you are thus far unhappy with how your career is working out or if you are ready to switch gears & mix things up a bit…. try something new! Follow your gut intuition, and commit to switching things up a bit.
All of these changes will come with some uncertainty and discomfort. When you are second-guessing everything, reframe your mindset to understand that these are GROWING pains that show you're moving in the right directions.
To make your transition a little easier, strategize all of your moves and turn your huge projects into smaller chunks by setting good milestones for yourself. You can also think about finding an accountability buddy who can help ensure that you are still moving forward past any setbacks.
2) Join Support Groups
Support groups are SO important. These groups exist for people like YOU to have a space to ask questions and grow. There's no shame in being a newcomer, and there are no restraints to how many amazing people you could meet.
Our world is more connected than ever, which means there is more opportunity to connect than ever. Sometimes, there won't be any groups or events that are local to you. If travel isn't an option (insert me here!), try the web! Take advantage of everything and anything out there that could connect you to others in your field.
Speaking for myself here, I run a business full-time, I travel for speaking engagements, I have a family, AND I have a great personal life. It's safe to say that I have nearly ZERO TIME to commit to in-person networking events. SO, I turn to the virtual world A LOT!
Facebook is probably one of your favorite social media platforms. Even better than keeping up with your friends, Facebook has groups that you can join.
There are entire hashtags dedicated to your interests. And you can even access online forums and courses waiting for you.
3) Build Your Own Reputation
Somewhere along the line, we got a little confused about what reputation means.
Your reputation should encompass your professional life and speak to the standard of your work. You don't need permission from anyone to build your career by pursuing your interests.
You ALREADY have the freedom to build a reputation around the focus, platform, and topics that you need to master if you want to build your expertise.
Connection and authenticity are at their highest peak right now. More than ever, people want to connect with other like-minded individuals. For some, that means finding someone who is using their voice to say: I don't know what I'm doing, but I'm HERE to figure it out and succeed!
4) FOCUS on Your Mindset
Lastly, change your mindset from needing to giving.
Here's what I mean: instead of needing people to respond a certain way or validate you, meet others with the intention of learning how you might help them.
Ask yourself: What are they looking for or struggling with? Who do they want to connect to?
With this approach, you can discover that networking is really about service and fun, and watch as those you help start to reciprocate. Give yourself a break while networking and take the focus off of getting a new job. Instead, think about how can you serve and support others around you! Doing this, you'll simultaneously build a network of support for yourself too!