The many benefits of networking for professionals in virtually any field are well known, particularly if you are a business owner or rely on referrals for revenue.  However, for many people, traditional networking events can be awkward or not well-suited to the way in which they interact socially.  If you are uncomfortable breaking the ice with strangers or feel like you are forcing your business card on others, you probably won’t experience much success attracting customers and collaborating at typical networking mixers.  That’s OK!  The key is to find what works for you and to remember that there is no wrong way to network.

Never underestimate the power of your existing network of friends and family.  Each of those people also has a network of connections, and if you are open about your goals and your successes, word will get around.  Focus on developing yourself, even in ways unrelated to your business, and you will make new friends along the way.  Take up a new hobby or enroll in a continuing education course, and you will add to your skill set and personal network.  Even without setting out to turn these friends into customers or referrals, you will undoubtedly find connections with whom you can collaborate in the future.  Whether you are at the PTA meeting or on the golf course, represent yourself well, speak openly and honestly, and your network will begin to grow exponentially.   

When working to find investors for your business, your network is your best opportunity.  Finding investors through cold intros is nearly impossible, so expand your network and make it work for you!