5 tips for networking in a small city
In smaller communities, where it can feel like everybody knows everybody, it probably seems like networking should come easily.
But in fact, networking in a small city can be much more challenging than in a place like Toronto or Vancouver, where career fairs, networking events, and recruitment specialists seem to abound. In a smaller city, building your professional network might require a slightly different approach than in the big city.
If you’re looking to get your name out there in a community you love, follow these tips for networking in a small city.
Become a joiner
Jeff Fawcett and Todd Gudz have owned and operated D&B Sprinklers in Brandon, Man., for over 20 years, gradually building their client base up all over the province.
Fawcett found that joining the Brandon Chamber of Commerce was a great way to both get involved in the community and meet other entrepreneurs and specialists across all industries and walks of life.
“The reality is we wish we had gotten involved earlier, but you’re so busy trying to get your business going that you don’t,” Fawcett said. “It just gives you an opportunity. It’s an opening. You’re now connected in some tangible way rather than just being in business together.
“It gets you in some doors and allows you the freedom to get a hold of people.”
The benefits of getting involved aren’t even limited to professional organizations. Joining any community organization – or even a local recreational sports team or book club – could still help you make valuable introductions.
“In small towns it’s so important to network and it’s going to look different than in your big cities,” said Joanne Loberg, career consultant and executive coach at JL Careers Inc. “It’s networking at your sports games. If you’re in a faith community, it’s networking at church. It’s finding ways of connecting with people.”
Try to learn about people, not positions
In building her company, Olivier’s Bistro Catering & Restaurant Supplies, Susan Spiropoulos found that the best way to forge lasting business connections was to make a real attempt to get to know people, rather than talk about furthering each other’s professions.
In other words? Be real.
“People get to know you on a different playing field when you are at a function – you’re not trying to sell them something or get them to book a catering, you genuinely get to know them and hear about their jobs, family, trials, and tribulations,” Spiropoulos said.
“Essentially, you listen to the other person. Most people want the microphone, but when you listen, you’re garnering a lot of information.”
Protect your rep
Clichés about small-town gossip aside, word can travel fast in a cozier community.
If you’re an entrepreneur, that means going the extra mile to ensure your clients are receiving the sort of top-notch service that will make them recommend you to friends.
And if you’re working for someone else, it means being extra cautious about never burning a single bridge and maintaining good relationships, even on your way out of a company.
“We worked off word of mouth for most of our career,” Fawcett said. “We work hard to maintain that good reputation all over the province.”
Seek out mentoring opportunities…
Searching out wisdom from people at the top of their professional game is good advice, no matter where you live.
Those enviable professionals might be just a little bit more accessible outside of a major metropolis, however – so take advantage.
“The one thing about a place like Brandon is you do know most people, or have sort of ties, so doors are open,” Fawcett said. “You just have to go and knock on doors and talk to people. The business community is exceptionally good to one another. If there’s people who have been in business a long time, their doors are always open.”
…And pay it forward
Your professional experience is probably valuable to someone in the community, so you should welcome the opportunity to share that wealth.
“The open door has to move both ways,” Fawcett said. “Trust relationships are the most important thing you can have, and things will move really fast if you generate those.”