Whether you need to find a local reliable plumber, get investment for your business or find a job – networking is of benefit. With the burgeoning pressure of social media there’s no escaping it. Yet why do many still shy away from networking?
Networking is fundamentally easy …
“A supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest.” www.dictionary.com
Don’t dismiss any contact. This is where having zero prejudices goes in your favour.
I’ve met people at the bus stop who have ended up helping friends of mine and in time the gesture has been returned.
On the other had I’ve seen lost opportunities – I’ve seen businessmen be rude to fellow passengers just hours before taking on a new persona with their work associates. Who knows when people’s paths will cross again? Why just suck up to people whom you already know or think you know?
These days, even more than before, wealth and knowledge is very much disguised. The wide boy suited and booted 80s ‘flash the cash’ type may have been attractive to some yet who’d have thought the quiet geek in the corner would be the one setting up a dot.com company to sell it off a decade later for vast sums of money and with a whole host of entrepreneurial skills and contact lists up their sleeves.
Wealth is power as they say, and that also relates to who you know.
Networking should be a fluid experience and even though the thought of ‘getting out there’ can be overwhelming where do you start?
Take a general approach – whilst your bread of butter should certainly not be neglected, your personal life should be of equal importance.
Build relationships and grow new ones. You are your own business.
Who do you know? How well do you know them? When was the last time you had more than just an email conversation with them? Develop your current relationships.
Testing the water
Who did you know? Utilise social media sites such as LinkedIn and Alumni networks and start getting in touch with your old contacts. Don’t worry if you haven’t spoken to them in years – there was a time when you may have spoken to them everyday. Just pick up the phone or send them a mail.
Look at children and how they make friends – they don’t judge people. They simply ask each other whether they want to play the same game. Don’t feel afraid to start small talk with people. There’s a whole host of topics you could discuss from the weather to sports you enjoy.
Don’t just rely upon your workplace to network – start getting to know people well in your local community. You could be sitting next to someone on the bus who could be the person that has the key to your dream role.
Key things to remember when networking
- Don’t apologise when asking for help – networking is beneficial to everyone
- If you’re unsure of a particular points from a conversation don’t be afraid to ask for clarification – confirmation is key
- Like the saying “two ears and one mouth” – ask questions and listen and carefully
- Always be ready to sell yourself – know your USP and have business cards, or a CV, at the ready
- Don’t be judgemental – one persons take on something will undoubtedly be different to yours but that doesn’t mean it is wrong
- Leave a meeting or conversation with a next step – summarise what you’ve discussed and what you’ve agreed to do. If anything this exercise will highlight to you your own effectiveness and accomplishments
- Don’t take things personally – there will be times when people do not respond to emails and it’s up to you to decide whether to try again via another method or later or just not at all. Some people just don’t want to be part of the ‘networking game’
- Don’t forget your contacts – once you’ve made the effort don’t forget that person and never forget to do what you’ve promised to do whether that’s sending an email or passing on information
- Most of all enjoy the experience – smile and engage with whomever you are communicating with and be authentic.
Get out there and start
Wherever you go have your mantra to hand
Know your product, like your product even if that product is you
Take your cards, and if appropriate your CV, with you wherever you go
Follow up with each contact you make
It’s so much easier to network now than a decade ago and there’s a whole heap of online tools to help you too – make good use of them!
Remember that anyone, yes anyone, can network.