First I Found Reasonable Jobs, Later On, Amazing Clients Found Me
How my Business Connecting skills made this happen
How it all started
12 Years ago a friend told me that I should start organising professional networking trainings. I asked her why she suggested this? She told me that what I was doing all the time was something a lot of people didn’t get and were, therefore, missing valuable work and business opportunities. At that time I was often organising small events, meeting interesting people I found on LinkedIn for a coffee and connecting people I knew because of job or business purposes for them. I also managed to stay in contact with the people I met by afterwards meeting them again in person, online via Skype or sending them informal personal messages. To me, this all came naturally and easily and I never saw it as a valuable (business) skill.
Theory and practice
6 Years later, when I was working for the Dutch national government, I heard that a colleague was doing research about modern networking skills for job seekers. He was writing the theoretical part of what I had been experiencing in practice for years. At that time (2012) social media had scaled immensely. Everybody was using it or learning how to use it. I started to realize that my gained experience could be of value to others. Several times I thought about putting my knowledge on paper, turning it into a training but so far I never did, until… now! All that I have learned in the last decade is now finally available. I hope to reach professionals and businesses, who are looking for ways to become more visible and want to learn how to turn their relevant (new) contacts into real profitable relationships.
To give you a bit more clarity on what I am talking about, I would like to share 10 experiences I had.
- 22 — PR through organising an event for a voluntary organisation
When I was 22 I organised an event for a voluntary organisation. Without consciously realizing it, I was doing a lot of marketing and PR. I just did what seemed logical to me. I asked a friend, graphic designer, to make flyers (at that time not much was happening online yet), emailed all the people I knew who could be interested and asked them to join or give notice of the event to others, spread flyers at local cafes and flyered at an event where the target group was partying.
- 25 — Gaining knowledge through drinking coffee with a LinkedIn contact
When I was 25 I couldn’t decide between a personal development course and one for becoming a professional trainer. I came up with the idea to ask in a LinkedIn group for trainers if someone would like to have a coffee with me and talk about their work. Before I knew it I met 3 amazing trainers. 2 Of them even gave me an individual training exercise when we met for the second time. What more could I wish for? From then on meeting people one-on-one, after connecting with them online was a new connecting resource for me.
- 28— Meeting my future manager through Twitter
When I was 28 a woman I was following on Twitter shared that she attended a contest. This made me realize that no matter what the value of that contest was, the fact that she could share it online was good for her personal branding. Some months later I, partly therefore, attended a contest. I did not only participate but also asked a manager, who I knew was managing a team I was interested in working in, for feedback. Some months later he was looking for a team member. Guess who got the job?
- 29 — Meeting my future colleague by attending a networking event
When I was 29 I was working on the “new ways of working week” for the Dutch government. I heard about an interesting event outside of the government and felt I needed to go there also to broaden my view. I met a man there who, after a nice conversation gave me his business card. The next week I saw he started following me on Twitter. I checked his profile and ended up on the website of the company he was a partner of. To my surprise on that website I read they were working with ‘theory u’, a theory I got to know weeks before and which since then fascinated me. I invited him for a coffee. We kept in touch since then. Half a year later his organisation was looking for a consultant and I started working there.
- 31 — Assistant trainer experience thanks to a LinkedIn request
When I was 31, back in the Netherlands after spending half a year in Nepal and India, I got more interested in working internationally. My gut feeling told me to go to Berlin. I arranged myself a European funding for young entrepreneurs. Once I knew I got the funding I asked people in the LinkedIn group ‘theory U’ who was living in Berlin and if they could use some assistance. I got several answers, but one with a real offer. The week I arrived in Berlin I had my first paid work there as an assistant trainer.
- 32— Meeting a co-founder at an international event I organised
When I was 32 I organised an international event for the online community Theory U in Practice in which I was involved. I organised all, from location to food to live stream. I met one of the co-founders of Unleash Leadership there, with whom I have been collaborating since 2016.
- 34 —Meeting potential clients at networking events I organised
Last year I started networking events for Dutch people in Berlin. I made a Facebook event, promoted it several times, created a separate Facebook group, found a cafe and soon the first event was a fact. At that point, I didn’t know yet that I would start organising courses German for Dutch speakers, with a creative learning edge, some months later. The events since then are also interesting from a perspective of meeting potential course participants.
- 35 — Getting a client thanks to LinkedIn updates
Several years ago I was looking for a new job. I had a job interview at a consultancy firm, where I eventually wasn’t hired because I was too senior. I stayed in contact with the people who worked there through LinkedIn. The end of last year I posted on LinkedIn that I was available for new projects. I received a message saying that they had just received European funding for a project that involved exploring business opportunities outside of the Netherlands and would like to talk to me. We started working together about a month later.
- 35 — A client finding me thanks to a Facebook group I am managing
When I was 35 I started a Facebook group, with by now 1500 people in it, because I thought it was good to connect with people on certain topics and share experiences, ideas and thoughts. Last year, a woman based in Canada, who was actually looking for someone else, found me in this group. Given my active role there, and after seeing my website, she asked me to do a project for her company.
- 35 —Getting a client through attending a business club
Two people I got to know in Berlin advised me to join a certain event of a business club because they thought the organisation that would present itself there would be interesting for me. After the talk of the co-founder of that organisation, I chatted with him for a little while and it turned out that he was looking for skills that I had to offer. Several months later I did a project for him.
4 Essentials of Business Connecting
So far some of my experiences. I hope it has given you more insight in, and understanding of the importance of, Business Connecting. There are some aspects I would like to highlight.
- Human connection
Before the job or business connection, there was always a sincere human connection. I believe that is essential for Business Connecting. It is not about simply exchanging business cards. It is about exchanging authentic stories and intentions.
- Your authenticity
In order to be able to connect you need to go out there. This involves going to events, business clubs, LinkedIn group and/or on coffee dates, but also sharing messages online. People will feel it when you are doing things you do not like or sharing things that do not come from your authentic self. I would suggest staying true to yourself and your personal preferred networking style. There is not one way of networking!
- Trust in yourself and others
When you meet people, either online or in person, trust your hunch feeling and believe in the value of yourself and your business. Most people will be curious and interested and if not they most likely are not the right connection for you. Good business relationships can only arise from a basis of trust.
- Sincere interest
As you can read in my examples, most of the times I didn’t connect with people in order to get something from them or if I did it was about learning or getting to know each other better with ‘who knows what might happen’ in mind. Mostly I connected with them on a certain topic or because we had common interests. Often we didn’t meet in the ‘working field’.
Business Connecting is for everybody. It’s up to you to make the 1st step!