“The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity”
- Keith Ferrazzi
Photo by Rawpixel on Unsplash
Networking doesn't have to be all about business. It’s also not about how many business cards you collect. Networking is the simple act of talking to people, but most important, it’s listening to what they have to say. It’s about creating a bond, a "click" with a person on a friendly level. It should focus on building a relationship and friendship. Be curious and find a common interest with the other person. By doing so, you will learn about them on a personal and professional level. They feel great knowing you truly care. That’s how relationships form and the opportunities will come organically.
Networking is one of the most cost-effective marketing tools available. Most of the time, it’s free or at a minimal cost. It gets your name out there. It gives you an opportunity to learn from the experiences of others. It helps you build valuable contacts and relationships personally and professionally.
But despite these advantages, many people still shy away from networking. They believe they’re not that good at it or it’s not worth the effort. If that sounds like you, then think again! While there are people who seem like they were born to work a room, it’s relatively easy for anybody to get the hang of it. You just need to know the secrets to do it right.
Tips to Great Networking
While a referral or an introduction can be great, at the end of the day it’s all about you grabbing life by the horns and saying, “This is who I am and this is what I do.” Whether it’s at the gym, pool, club or whatever event - Introduce yourself.
It’s as easy as extending your hand and saying “Hi.” You don’t have to begin the interaction with a profound question. Break the ice and start the conversation with a simple question. You’ll run into awkward silences but this is okay. It happens when you meet new people.
But more important, you need to remember the other person's name. If you can, try to repeat their name a few times as you start to talk to them.
Open Yourself Up and Connect
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Real networking is about being open to life and the people who cross your path. Real networking is about expanding your friend group. Real networking means putting your genuine self out there and not trying to sell to everyone.
Be genuine and authentic. Open yourself up to other people and connect in an emotional way. Often we connect with people because of a shared passion or interest. It could be about the workplace, or something completely different - like sports, music or film. Don’t be shy about expressing your true self and your passions. It will make you much more interesting, personable and memorable. Share your goals, aspirations, hopes and dreams and challenges you’re currently facing. Then let them do the same. Be who you are and you will attract whom you need.
Show Your Interest in Them - More Listening and Less Talking
People often make the mistake of thinking that networking means telling as many people as possible about what you do and how they might be able to help you. Forget this! Use it as an opportunity to get to know them.
It’s actually much more effective to spend your time actively listening to others. Refrain from looking around and looking uninterested. Focus on the person you are talking to. Keep your eyes on them. Listen to what they are saying. Ask good questions and understand what their networking goals are. Then find ways you can help whether through introductions, advice or knowledge sharing. Not only is this a learning opportunity for you, but it becomes one of the fastest ways to make friends and build an incredible network. They will respect you because you have the patience and maturity to actually listen.
Adopt a “Giving Mindset”
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When you meet someone new, don’t let your first thought be “What can I get out of this person?” It should always be “How can I help this person?”
When you have a lot to give, you will have the best network because it comes naturally. Be generous and helpful to the person you’re networking with. By helping someone reach a goal, make a connection, overcome an obstacle, etc., you are showing your willingness to invest in him or her first.
When people immediately ask for something from someone they’ve just met, a very different precedent for the relationship is established. Immediately, the other party realizes that they are nothing more than a stepping stone — and nobody likes to feel like that.
From a mentality standpoint, this is also extremely helpful in the long run. It’s never good to be so reliant upon the kind gesture of someone else. You want to be able to stand on your own two feet. If something comes from the relationship, great.
The key here is to always be giving value without any expectation of getting anything in return. If you’re expecting something in return, you’re not giving value.
When a conversation is over, ask for their business card if you want the relationship to go further. On the back of their business card, write down quick notes about your interaction with the person. Did they mention they were looking for a graphic designer who specializes in logo design? Or that they recently adopted a puppy? Write that down. In your follow-up, you could mention someone you know who designs logos and ask how that puppy is doing.
Make sure that you follow up on every conversation with a sincere thank you. Follow through on any promises you make or guidance you receive. Circle back with people when their advice or introductions prove helpful. Share or comment on the articles they publish. Keep them in mind when an opportunity or information that could be helpful to them comes along. In other words, add some sort of value.
Stay in Touch on Social Media
With all the people you meet, add them to your LinkedIn and Twitter networks so you can keep in touch. Check what they’re up to in case anything changes in the future. Social media is a great platform to share your expertise, provide advice and join discussions. It also engages you with the content shared by others. Contribute regularly and make sure you’re part of the conversations that matter.
Understand that networking is not just about you and taking. It's as much about listening, giving and helping. It's an exchange of value.
Develop your own suite of techniques. At the end of the day, you will need to work out which techniques suit your personality and are comfortable applying.
By techniques, I mean tools that you can collect and use, as you need, for the following situations:
- how to walk up to someone or a group of people and enter the conversation
- how to make an exit
I would love to know your tips on how you create a great networking experience.
(Written by Rita Chin, President & Creator of the It-za... Stay Skirt)