How do you make networking worthwhile?

Networking is supposed to open doors. But do you know if your efforts are really working? Do you concentrate on maximizing the number of people in your network or focus just on the most powerful and influential to gain benefits from networking? According to Rob Cross and Robert Thomas co-authors of “Managing Yourself: A Smarter Way to Network” in the July issue of Harvard Business Review those aren’t the secrets at all. Diversity and a willingness to give as much or more than you get are the keys. According to the authors:

“The executives who consistently rank in the top 20% of their companies in both performance and well-being have diverse but select networks…made up of high-quality relationships with people who come from several different spheres and from up and down the corporate hierarchy.”

But the question most people have is how do you meet people from outside your regular social circles? Even people that regularly attend Chamber or other social meet and greet functions (especially if you live in a relatively small community) end up seeing the same people every month. If you strictly use the web and social media for your networking you are really missing out. While social media is a great supplementary tools, Face-to-Face conversation will never be surpassed as the best way to get to know someone.

I’ve found three ways to meet people outside my industry and outside my normal social circle.

GoGrabLunch
GoGrabLunch is a great resource for meeting other professionals. You set up a profile on the website, check a few radio-buttons about your industry and experience level and what kind of people you’d like to meet, and pick a restaurant, and set the time and date for your lunch. Others that are registered on the site can grab that lunch date. It’s strictly professional and it’s free.

Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence
There is no better way to meet smart people than through your state or the national Baldrige-based programs. I volunteer for the Tennessee program because as I’ve said before some of the most interesting conversations I have all year happen during training and during my participation on teams. There are a number of ways you can participate either by volunteering or by attending any one of several different conferences and training events.

Google+
I was lucky enough to receive an early invite to use Google’s new social tool Google +. It’s been great. I have regular interesting conversations with people I otherwise would not know through this new social tool. If you have not received an invite yet, you can get a Google + invite here. Try it out.

Don’t stop going to Chamber meetings and other social events but find some new ways to network. Make sure your new ways open up opportunities to build relationships with people from outside your normal social circles. And don’t forget to look for me on Google+ or comment here.

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