There is no secret to business networking. We learn in the infancy of our careers that relationships can make us all stronger. Anyone who has had a chance to work in a corporate environment for any period of time has had a chance to learn many of these lessons first hand. However, every city has it’s own culture, it’s own vibe, and it’s own dynamic as it relates to networking. The metro area of St. Louis is no different. So, what makes “The Lou” unique, what are the keys to successful business networking in St. Louis, and what should you be doing about it?
The vine is ripe all around you to begin growing your network. In St. Louis the opportunity is especially advantageous as the median age for people working in the greater St. Louis area is 38 years old, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Business Growth Blog describes the average St. Louisian entrenched in their career as “openly seeking more connections”. This makes for a large portion of the population that is deeply intrenched in the middle of their career, and looking to move themselves and their business forward. Forbes magazine also points out that St. Louis also features an unemployment rate below the national average, and describes the largest industries in town as healthcare, bio-science, and information technology – three of the largest and fastest growing industries in the world. So as we mentioned before, the vine is ripe in the city of St. Louis.
Let’s start with the basics. Should you network? In many cases, broad brush statements about the merits of one thing versus another should be quickly ignored, but the truth is that networking can only benefit you, so the answer is unequivocally, yes. Individuals that regularly spend time developing business networks as a means of growing their circle of business contacts and promoting themselves and their business online have shown to generate 47% more business for themselves or their employer. However, your goal may not be to “generate business”, perhaps it’s to further your career. You could still apply the same principle, and make the calculated assumption that the correlation likely exists in some fashion as it relates to career growth as well. Anyway you want to look at it, you should be networking right now. And you should probably always be seeking more ways to optimize the process for yourself.
Ok, great, so you want to network. And, you want to do it in St. Louis, what’s next? Step one should be to utilize the tools and opportunities around you. Whether you’re an intern, middle manager, or executive there are clear resources all around you that could provide an immediate benefit. St. Louis is the home to many large corporations, national organizations, and small businesses. Chances are that the people that work next to you have family members, friends, or colleagues that work at several of them.
In St. Louis, we have one of the best cop-outs ever to talk about our relationships and backgrounds. A classic St. Louis question that gently and carefully opens these doors is, “where did you go to high school?”. Even if you’re not originally from the area, you should have a good idea at this point as to where certain areas are, and may share connections that have grown up in a similar environments. This is great way start uncovering the relationship tree that a colleague or friend might have available, and this can work both ways. By opening these doors you and the person you are connecting with will have a better idea of each others background. This may dividends for you both down the road as you may seek to reach out to someone inside their circle, or visa versa. As simple and redundant as this type of approach might sound, it is a great beginners lesson on how you can optimize and develop the relationships currently around you, and how you can make them more dynamic.
To summarize the first part of our series on networking in St.Louis, simple environmental questioning can help you tap into your current social capital without any additional effort or significant investment of time. Simply discover the connections that already exist under your nose, and use the local culture and habitat as a tool to help you dig deeper into these existing relationships. It’s worth mentioning that a great way to begin networking in the city is to also connect into a networking and business group like Chameleon Club each week. For more information about Chameleon Club, or how to use a club like this to grow your personal network use the contact form below.
Next week we will continue with (Part II) of our series, and will feature information regarding online professional networking in the city of St. Louis.