One thing they don’t tell you about being an adult (or at least no one told me) is that making friends is hard! Graduating from college, moving to a new town, and starting a new job can be a hazard to your social life, causing you to have to start back at square one making acquaintances and friends.
You know what’s just as difficult sometimes? Making friends within your own industry. It’s a shame too because these industry connections, your peers (even if they are your competitors) can be a great resource if you are just starting out or even a well-established business or professional. But, admittedly, it can be hard to talk to anyone about work when you aren’t at work. However daunting as it may seem, it is actually possible! My biggest resources for finding industry connections: Networking Events and Twitter Chats.
Networking to Find Industry Connections
Networking events are not just a place for meeting potential clients and getting approached by financial advisers and insurance agents. Although, I seem to find plenty of the latter when I go to local events. They are also a great place to meet and connect with peers and other professionals within your own industry. Even if the person you end up talking to and exchanging business cards with is a direct competitor, knowing and having a connection with your peers and the businesses they represent can be a valuable perk. Here are ways to get the most out of creating industry connections with peers.
In the future, there may be projects or customers that walk through your door that you won’t be able to help. Sometimes projects are too big, too small, out of the scope of your expertise, or in conflict with current clients. Your peers may have run into that same issue as well. If you have established relationships with others in your industry, you may have a partner to pass along and receive referrals from.
Pick their brain
The time you spend meeting and talking with industry peers is an opportunity for you to pick their brains. Get their take, thoughts, and opinions on the mutual challenges and hurdles you both face within your business or industry or get their perspective on any recent industry changes or news. What they have to say may be valuable.
See what they are doing
After you leave the event, the folks you meet are great follows for social media. Following industry peers on Twitter and LinkedIn isn’t just a good way to maintain connections, but to stay up to date and see what they and their company are doing on social media. See what they do from their accounts to promote their business and the ways they interact with their followers. In the same way you can learn from competitors during a web design, you can take notes that you apply to your social media and marketing. So, if you run into professionals from within your own industry, don’t shut them down. Instead, give them a card, find them on social media, send an email, and do all the follow-up stuff you would do for anyone else you meet. Don’t be afraid to be friends with your competitors.
Some of the best industry connections I have ever made I have never actually met. Yes, I’m talking about internet friends! Start by finding a Twitter chat. Twitter chats are weekly (typically) hour-or-so long online gatherings where professionals within (or interested) in different industries come to share knowledge, perspective, and bounce around ideas about a variety of topics. There are so, so, so, so many twitter chats out there covering just about any professional or leisure topic you can imagine; from agriculture, travel, analytics, social media, blogging, design, education, entertainment, and so on. Personally, I am a big fan and attendee of #DigiBlogChat, a weekly Twitter chat for social media, business strategy, blogging, and lots more. It’s full of constructive conversation, great topics, and fun interactions. Feel free to find me and say hello!
People who attend Twitter chats can come from all over the world. This is especially valuable for industry connection building because businesses on the other side of the country or a continent away may not be as guarded and more open to talking about business and offering advice than your competitor across town. Twitter chats get my highest recommendation for the place to start if you are serious about wanting to make friends and connections within your industry, .
Once you find a chat that piques your interest, dive right in and don’t be shy. Answer questions, participate in the discussion, and engage directly with other participants. Who knows who you’ll end up connecting with when you become a regular .
Want to learn more about Twitter chats? Listen to #DigiBlogChat organizer, Carol Stephens, talk about these unique networking opportunities on our podcast.
Improve your networking skills with our Healthy Networking Habits Handbook.