You might be going to some gatherings where you’ll see colleagues and other potential referral partners (people who might refer to you and who you might refer to) this week. If you’ve been reading my blog, or if you’ve ever talked to me about networking, you know I’m NOT going to tell you to bring a bunch of business cards and ask everyone to refer clients to your practice. That doesn’t work, and it isn’t fun for you or for the other guests!
Last week I went to a holiday party where I saw a whole bunch of colleagues, and it got me thinking about how therapists can network well at a party, and how they can make networking mistakes. Therapists who see networking as a long-term effort, and who are focused on building authentic relationships, succeed at networking. That’s true at a party just as much as it is true at a one on one coffee date. Choose a few people who you want to know better, and create a deeper connection with those people. Connect with them in a meaningful way, asking them the curious questions that help you understand them better. Ask them some interesting questions about their work, like “How are you working differently now than you were a few years ago?” You’ll learn about their recent training and other influences, and you’ll avoid getting stock answers you might if you only asked “how is your practice going?” Ask them personal questions too. Find out about their kids and favorite restaurant.
Don’t focus on telling them about your work. Most people will ask, and at that point, choose just one thing you want to be known for, and talk about it as you let your enthusiasm shine. You might think for a few minutes before you arrive about what you most want to share. Don’t fall into commiserating about the difficult parts of private practice. Focus on what you love about your work. Yes, it is a good idea to bring some business cards just in case. I admit I actually forgot mine last week.