Engage To Network

By Jeremy Park

Last week we offered a number of tips from the Memphis Police Department to help protect our families, friends, and co-workers during this holiday season. This week, let us share three keys to networking and discuss how building your sphere of influence is intertwined with community engagement.

Let us first define “networking” because it can have two very different connotations. The first is sharks in the water, frantically passing out business cards to get a sale in five minutes. Anyone who has been to an event with this atmosphere or met someone with this approach knows the dreaded feelings associated and the walls you put up immediately. The second definition embodies “making new friends” and has a genuine nature geared toward helping each other and building real relationships. This is our definition of “networking.”

Networking is critical to success, as a city, business and individual. It is not necessarily who you know, but more importantly, who knows and trusts you!

We are living in the “Creative Era,” where the currency of our economy is driven by ideas and creativity. In a world stretched with growing demands and scarce resources, leaders are turning to those they trust to get the job done right the first time.

As evidence, we see the job market shifting toward hiring through personal referral networks. The good news is that networking is intertwined with community engagement.

Drawing from previous columns, the first tip is to get involved with a nonprofit and volunteer. When we say volunteer, we actually mean taking a leadership role in helping the effort. Offer to solicit support from friends and take ownership of a specific project. In the process, you will hone your skills and build trust among business and nonprofit leaders. If you ask any business leader what is paramount outside of their operations, community engagement will top the list.

This engagement carries over to the second tip, which is to know your story. You need to practice your storyline, especially tying in volunteering and successful community leadership.

Have a 15-second teaser and a longer version that draws interest and solicits questions. The key is to know your sphere of influence and your existing network of contacts, and understand your value in helping people. If you can make someone’s life easier or more successful, you have real networking power.

The final tip is to be proactive. Use social media to establish and strengthen relationships, but never forget the power of personal interaction via face-to-face or telephone. Do research online and reach out to leaders you would like to get to know by asking for lunch or mentorship. Stay current with news and attend community and business events to take advantage of every opportunity to grow and add value to your life and the others around you.

Jeremy Park, director of communications at Lipscomb Pitts Insurance and director of the Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club, can be reached at jeremyp@lpinsurance.com.