Does the word “networking” make your face pucker up like you just bit into a lemon?
You’re not alone in that feeling, but the good news is, if you learn to network the fun way, not only will you look forward and anticipate networking opportunities, but you’ll actually see beneficial results.
Now, if your idea of networking is going to boring events and passing out business card after business card, this is exactly the kind of networking I won’t be discussing today. Instead, I’m going to cover how to network in a way that is both fun, worth your time and energy, and actually helps you further your aesthetic career.
And if you thinking I’m just blowing steam, I’ll let you in on my this aspect of my business: I actually consider my network to be my greatest asset.
I started building and maintaining a strong network of industry professionals from the time I graduated aesthetics school, and I can trace back new clients, job offers, speaking opportunities, and even the success of my consulting business to connections that I made through my network.
Those relationships that have been created, developed, and nourished over the years have been so valuable to me which is why I feel so strongly and passionately about the importance of building your network.
So, how can you start developing your own network and expand your professional opportunities? Let’s start with the why.
Why Networking Within the Spa Industry is So Important
Regardless of whether you’re a spa owner, solo aesthetician, or you work for a spa, the one thing that is universal among every aesthetic expert is that we need a strong network to truly thrive in our careers.
Now something I want to distinguish is that, I’m referring specifically to face-to-face networking because while networking through online communities and platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook can also be very beneficial, nothing beats getting to know someone in person and gaining a clear understanding of how they can fit into your network.
For example, when you’re talking with someone online, your conversation is likely to only go so far, but when you meet someone in a small, personalized setting, you’re better able to forge a true professional relationship where you can get a feel for how your connection with this person will better serve your clients, grow your business, and vice versa.
Also, by attending in-person events you’ll not only get your name on the map, but your company’s as well, and you’ll be making lasting impressions on individuals, which helps others remember who you are, what you do, and how you can be of service to those that they work with.
By putting your business, and yourself out there, you are attaching a face to the name. However, there’s one important consideration you have to keep in mind when it comes to successful networking, which is carefully selecting which networking opportunities to take part in to maximize your time.
How To Participate in Networking Events and Expand Your Professional Opportunities
Yes, networking is a time and money investment - totally worth it - but you just want to make sure that you’re choosing events that are a good fit.
Events where you can provide value to the others there and, of course, they can provide value to you.
When you’re looking for networking opportunities, a few things to factor into your decision in attending include the potential for building referral relationships, if there will be a learning component to the meeting, and whether you’ll have the opportunity to make connections with leaders in your industry or local community.
For example, attending an event with other professionals who are not necessarily aestheticians, but involved in other aspects of the industry, such as hair stylists, nail technicians, plastic surgeons, and cosmetic nurses can provide a plethora of referral or partnership opportunities for your business.
In these types of referral or preferred partnerships, each of you brings your own customers to the table, which allows for an expanded client base, and it makes you more valuable to the clients you currently serve because they know they can turn to you for a reliable and high-quality references on other aesthetic services they might be interested in. It’s a win-win.
And when it comes to attending networking events with a learning component, this factor helps with staying informed on larger-scope industry trends as well as gleaning insights on other niche fields within the aesthetic industry that you may be able to cater to your own business.
In addition to staying up-to-date with the teachings of your own industry, you’ll also have the chance to meet and create relationships with industry leaders, who are most likely leading the teaching portions of these events, and who have their own vast network.
Not sure where to even begin to find an event to attend?
I would start off with a simple google search of networking events in your area. Sites like MeetUp and Eventbrite will allow you to search for events in your area, too. And don’t forget about your local chamber of commerce or business networking groups like BNI.
How to Handle a Case of Networking Nerves
So, now that you know how to go about finding networking events that are a good fit for you and your business goals, it’s time to focus on making sure you’re putting your best foot forward, which may seem impossible if you suffer from networking nerves.
Listen, unless you’re a total extrovert and love networking, chances are networking isn’t something you get super excited about, so here’s a few tips to help keep your nerves in check:
- Put your best foot forward by dressing in something that’s both comfortable and flattering.
No need to get overly business-y. Most of us in the aesthetic industry aren’t pant suits or pencil skirt wearers, so no need to dress like that at a networking event. The more uncomfortable you feel, the more uncomfortable you’ll look.
- Come to the event with a colleague or someone else you think the event would pertain to.
Just remember not to stick to them like glue all night, this can simply be a way to reduce nerves when you know you have someone to enter the event with and sit next to, but don’t forget to talk to other people, that’s what you’re there for.
- Have some business cards in an easy-to-reach place in your bag.
Don’t feel like you have to hand them out, but someone might ask for your card and it’s nice to not have to fumble around trying to frantically find one.
- Keep a drink on hand, not necessarily an alcoholic one, water works best actually.
This helps with giving your hands something to do, it naturally creates a more casual and inviting body language, and you don’t have to worry about getting dry mouth from nerves.
- Find events that fit a setting you’ll feel comfortable in.
Does being in a huge conference-style room freak you out? Don’t go to events like that yet. Find events at smaller settings, like maybe at a local restaurant or a cool, intimate event space. (And if you can’t find events you think you would be interested in, this might be a good chance to explore hosting a networking event of your own.)
- And of course, take some deep breaths and remind yourself that you’re interesting to talk to and that this is just getting to know people.
No big deal and no pressure for anything to come out of it, just see how it goes. Everyone is there for the same reason - to get to know others in the industry so they can expand their network too.
Now let’s talk about how you turn a networking event into a success after the fact:
- You’ll want to connect with the organization or person who hosted the event and thank them for a wonderful opportunity to learn and meet others in the field. A thank you note goes a long way and after all the time and effort that went into planning an event, your note will absolutely be appreciated.
- Send a follow-up note to anyone you had a meaningful interaction with. Let them know you enjoyed getting to meet them, add in an anecdote about your conversation, or arrange a follow up to a potential opportunity you discussed. This can be done via email and be sure to connect with them via LinkedIn as well so you have a face to go with the name.
- For anyone you may have only briefly connected with, link up with them on social media and send them a message, tweet, or comment mentioning how it was great to meet them. Even if you didn’t get a chance to talk in-depth at the event, you now have common ground and a place to start with striking up a conversation with them later.
Remember, the networking you do now is laying the foundation for future success, just like any non-business friendship or relationship, you have to foster it in order for it to grow, so don’t let your connections die at the networking event, continue to cultivate those relationships with time.
Alright, now that you have a roadmap for networking done right, how do you feel about it? Let me know in the comments!
I think it’s exciting that you never know who you might encounter or how the people you meet might provide unique opportunities for your business.
So even though putting yourself and your company out on a limb might seem nerve-wracking at first, there’s no doubting that networking is worth the time and energy spent.