Turn "Socializing" into "Networking"
Most professionals know they must network in order to achieve long-term business success. I remember as far back as high school being told by my guidance counselor that I needed to "meet a lot of people and build a network." That was great advice back then and even better advice today.
It's critically important to participate in the public arena and interact with the people who could become your clients, provide you with valuable information or help you further your causes and beliefs.
While they understand the importance of networking, many professionals do a lousy job of it. It's easy to show up at an event, grab a drink, eat some free hors d'oeuvres, say "hi" to a couple people, then go home and pat yourself on the back for being involved in the community.
Unfortunately, that's not networking. It's merely socializing.
There's nothing wrong with socializing. In fact, it's generally a good thing, but it's not efficient. In order to convert socializing into networking, you need to have a three-tiered goal planted in your mind before you even enter the venue where networking will take place.
I call it "goal-based networking," and here's how it works:
"I will get a direct opportunity"
This could be a new client, an invitation to join a prestigious organization, a job offer, a promise to donate money to your pet cause. While Goal #1 is ideal, it unfortunately doesn't happen at most networking events.
"I will get a solid lead on a direct opportunity"
This is almost as good as the first goal, because it moves you closer to what you really want. Goal #2 should happen at the vast majority of networking events you attend. If it doesn't, you're not meeting enough people or not asking the right questions.
"I will meet new people and learn valuable information"
This is the bare-bones minimum goal that you should achieve at every single networking event you attend.
Make a commitment to network more and remember to think about these three goals before walking into your next networking event. Setting these goals consistently over a long period of time will maximize the return from your investments in networking. That means you increase your public profile, connect with the right people and become that person who always seems to know about business happenings long before your colleagues do.