Networking is all about making new connections and building longstanding relationships. In the commercial construction industry being able to effectively network is a vital skill that as an individual could land you your next job or put your company on the path to your next big project. While networking is something that you should always be doing it doesn’t have to be a daunting task. It’s as simple as meeting new people and forming an initial bond with that person that can be nurtured into a relationship. We’ve put together some simple and easy networking tips and tricks to help you further expand your network of contacts.
Take advantage of your trade associations (and trade shows). One of the top benefits of membership to a state, regional or local trade association is the ability to network with like-minded individuals in your field. Most trade associations host a number of conferences, meeting, events and seminars throughout the year in order for you to make new connections. You also might want to consider joining your local chamber of commerce as it will put you in touch with business leaders in your community that can lead to even more opportunities to network.
Don’t burn bridges. This may seem a bit cliché but you never know who you might be working for or with in the future. You should keep in contact and maintain good relationships with former employers, coworkers and subcontractors that you’ve worked with in the past because chances are you will come across these same people in your future endeavors. In an industry like commercial construction, everyone knows everyone else and word will travel fast if you’ve left a bad impression on someone.
Business cards are your friend. Exchanging business cards is a great way to have all the pertinent contact information for that new connection you just made. When taking someone’s business card don’t just shove it in your pocket or cram it in your wallet. Take the time to review the information and make some comment about it. For example, maybe they have another office in a state that your company is looking to expand into. Also, the back of a business card is a great place to jot down a quick note or two after your conversation that you can later reference when you follow up with your new connection. Be sure that when you hand out your business card that it is up to date with all of your current contact information. It would be a real shame if someone tried contacting you about a new opportunity only to discover that the phone number you provided on your business card was no longer in service or that your email address wasn’t spelled correctly.
Network at the jobsite. If you’re spending weeks or even months at the same jobsite you should take the time to get to know the people working around you. Depending on the size and scope of the commercial construction project there will be any number of specialty and trade contractors at the jobsite throughout construction. Take the time to walk around and meet some of the other people working with you. It’s a quick and easy way to expand your network.
Go online. Social networking sites like LinkedIn are a great way to reconnect with old acquaintances that you may have lost touch with over the years. There are also thousands of groups devoted to practically every aspect of the construction industry where you can join in or start your own discussions. One of the best features of LinkedIn is the ability find new people you’d like to network with and having a shared connection introduce you to that person. Online networking should not replace face-to-face networking, but it is a valuable tool that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Focus on helping others and facilitating connections. Once you’ve made a new connection you need to nurture and build your relationship with that person. Your main goal should be finding ways to help your new contact instead of focusing on how they can help you. Your new contact might not need your particular services at the time but if you can put them in touch with someone who can help them then they will remember you the next time they do or will reciprocate by introducing you to someone who does.
Networking opportunities can happen anywhere. Networking boils down to having a meaningful conversation with the right person. This can happen at the gym, watching your kid’s soccer game or standing in line at the grocery store. I once struck up a conversation with the owner of a general contracting firm while on vacation in the Dominican Republic. Don’t limit your networking to the office or the jobsite, a future opportunity might be closer than you think.