Building new relationships is an integral part of developing social capital. Your social capital – i.e., your access to people who can give you great advice, help you meet the right person, spread the word about you, etc. – may be an intangible asset, but it is also an invaluable one.
There are some people out there who are natural networkers – they have a plethora of contacts because they have a genuine ability to form connections and make friends when they meet new people. This is a natural gift – and unfortunately that means that not everyone has it. But does that have to be the end? If you don’t already have this gift, are you and your business doomed?
Of course not!
How can you become a natural?
The natural ability to network actually stems from a person’s innate understanding of unspoken rules. That means that as long as you can work out what those rules are, you can be just as successful at it. Here are a few of them:
Be Natural: Although it may seem unnatural to make a rule about being natural, that’s exactly what you have to do. Attend relevant events and engage with people. Ask close friends and colleagues who are well-connected to lend you a hand.
Be Selfless: Don’t go out there thinking you want to talk only to people who can do you a favor. Try to see who you can help as well. Willingness to help others means others will be willing to help you.
Be Realistic: Forming a network doesn’t happen overnight. Talking to a hundred people at an event and handing out your business card won’t get you very far. Be realistic – be considered. Approach the people who seem to have expertise or contacts they can share. And don’t forget to approach the people for whom you can provide those things.
So what will all your efforts get you?
Following all the rules is a delicate balance but not an impossible one. Keeping that balance will help you grow your social capital – whether you’re a natural or not. And the greater your social capital is, the wider your professional reach becomes. The more people you help, the more that will be out there willing to help you.
And if you’re successful at getting the right people to want to help you? You will have built a powerful support network behind your business.