Don't Get Stuck in a Networking Silo — Here's How to Expand Your Reach and Make Meaningful Connections This article provides tips on how to avoid networking in silos and build a diverse and thriving professional network.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Networking is an essential part of any business or profession. It provides an opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals, exchange ideas and create opportunities for growth and success. However, it is easy to become stuck in a networking silo. Attending the same events in the same environments and talking to the same people is one of the fastest ways to ensure you miss out on valuable opportunities to expand your reach and make meaningful connections. Silo networking is so subconsciously ingrained, that most will be completely unaware they are doing it.
Silos in networking refer to the tendency of individuals to network only with people within their immediate circle of influence. By nature, people are creatures of habit and lean towards environments or people that feel familiar and make them most comfortable. Comfortability can also come from knowing what you expect to get from people you already know. But in this, you likely already know the direction conversation will flow and the views or knowledge that are prone to be put forward. This only extends, expands or enhances the silo mentality and stifles innovation and growth.
Increasing your knowledge through expanding your network is one of the most effective ways to promote innovation and fast-track growth. Here's how to avoid networking in silos and build a diverse and thriving professional network:
Related: 3 Powerful Networking Strategies that Never Fail
1. Get out of your comfort zone
It's easy to gravitate toward people who feel similar to yourself, but that only leads to a limited network. Make a point to attend events, meetings or activities outside your usual circle or environment. This could mean attending events in different industries, venues or locations — or seeking out groups that focus on cultivating diverse communities across age, sector, culture, race, socio-economic background and interest. By expanding your horizons and challenging yourself to operate outside of your comfort zone, you'll have the opportunity to meet new people, learn from different perspectives and expand your network.
2. Seek out different types of networking opportunities
Networking doesn't have to mean attending formal events in stuffy locations. Purposefully seek out the full spectrum of opportunities to connect with others in your field. This could include joining online communities or groups, participating in forums or discussion boards, attending webinars or virtual conferences, attending curated activities or mingling in new spaces. You'll be surprised at the array and diversity of networking opportunities outside your usual field of vision.
3. Be intentional about building relationships
Networking is more than just exchanging business cards or brief conversations without impact. It is about building lasting, meaningful relationships with others based on mutual respect and shared interests. Take the time to get to know the people you meet, understand their interests and values, and look for ways to offer value and support to others. Be intentional about following up and staying connected, and don't be afraid to ask for advice or help when you need it. Avoid becoming the person full of empty promises, and instead, ensure you build rapport as someone who acts on and fulfills their word. Focus on what you have to offer instead of solely what you hope to gain.
Related: 3 Proven Strategies for Growing Your Network
4. Embrace diversity and inclusion
Building a diverse and inclusive network is essential to avoid networking in silos. The values of EDI go far beyond doing just what is right; there is a strong business case for it. Diverse views and opinions enable innovation to thrive. Seek opportunities to connect with people from different backgrounds, experiences, seniority and perspectives. Look for ways to engage, support and uplift underrepresented groups, and be open to learning from others with different viewpoints or experiences. Widening the range of views you are able to interpret and understand vastly increases the knowledge bases you will be subconsciously tapping into.
5. Collaborate and share resources
Collaboration is an excellent opportunity to connect with individuals outside of your immediate circle of influence. Networking is more than just meeting people — it is about finding ways to collaborate and share resources to achieve common goals. Look for opportunities to partner with others, share knowledge and expertise, and work together to achieve shared objectives. By building a collaborative network, you'll have access to a wealth of resources and support to help you achieve your business goals.
Networking is essential for any entrepreneur or professional looking to elevate their success, but it is vital to avoid getting stuck in a networking silo. By getting out of your comfort zone, seeking out different networking opportunities, being intentional about building relationships, embracing diversity and inclusion, and collaborating and sharing resources, you can cultivate a diverse and thriving professional network that will accelerate success, support innovation and enable you and those around you to reach your full potential.