The Importance of an Offline Network
As the world continues to transition online, one thing that many of us forget is the importance of the human connection. I don’t think we’re at the point where a direct message on Twitter is worth more than a lunch meeting, nor do I think that will ever happen (hopefully). The key is to maximize both tools in order to meet new people while maintaining the connection with those already in your network.
It probably seems difficult to cold call a professional and ask for some of their time, so I put together a list of three places to build your offline network:
Attending national, regional and local conferences is essential to meeting new people. While building your network locally is important, knowing people around the country can be helpful in job searches and, down the line, finding business relationships. Have you ever heard of someone knowing too many people? Probably not. Having a far-reaching network, especially as a student, shows commitment and skill.
When you attend these conferences, bring business cards that have not only your cell phone number and e-mail address, but your different online contact information. This way, you can build the relationship with your new contacts and hopefully open the door for more in-person meetings down the line.
I’ve mentioned this before on my blog, but it’s important to get involved with your professional community. Associations such as PRSA and PRSSA are a great way to meet and network with people in your profession. Being active within those organizations is even more important because it demonstrates your thought leadership within the organization. People look up to thought leaders and allow for easier networking.
While building your number of followers on Twitter, friends on Facebook and subscribers on FriendFeed, don’t be afraid to meet them in person. I’ve experienced the awkward “Oh, I follow you on Twitter!” many times. I stumbled into Scott Monty (@scottmonty) at the North American International Auto Show, Tim Wieland (@timwieland) at the EMU Student Development Conference and Shonali Burke (@shonali) by phone through the Mentorship Connection.
One principle to keep in mind with networking is really important for students. The objective of networking should not be to give your resume to that person – it should be to build a relationship. Helping out the professional either by interning with them or giving them a suggestion is important to do in a business relationship. Once you help them out, they will be more inclined to help you out.
As students, it’s pretty easy to be intimidated to ask a professional for a meeting. Once you get over your fear, the results will pay off. After all, it’s know what you know, but who you know.