A Quick Guide To Networking
Networking is about understand how you can be useful to someone else. Listen, learn, and buy some business cards!
Most people network to gain something:
job leads, referrals, exposure, connections, opportunities. I’ve seen plenty of these people leave networking events disappointed, dismissing networking as a complete waste of time.
But I’ve also seen the opposite. I’ve seen people walk out with a handful of business cards feeling happy, inspired and excited. The major difference between these two groups of people is this: the people who leave on a high note are those who attend with just one goal in mind — to figure out how they can help others in the room.
Networking, in its purest form, is about people enjoying other people, communicating passions and connecting with others who share those passions. It’s about listening, figuring out what others need and connecting them with people you think can help, without any designs for personal gain.
The most successful networkers build genuine relationships and give more than they receive. They go beyond thinking, “What’s in it for me?” to ask “How can I help?”
So how can you become better at networking?
Start before you need it
Building relationships is always easier when there isn’t a desperate need for outcome from the get go, people can sense when someone needs something and it can sometimes push them away. If the relationship is solid you can ask for help down the line.
Find networks that interest you, not just from a professional standpoint, but also a personal one. Try websites like www.meetup.com to find networks in your area.
Make a Plan
Since every person has value, it’s essential that you know what yours is. Before you attend any networking event, get clear on what talents, strengths, skill sets and connections you can bring to the table. Map out what you want to talk about, particularly how you may be able to help other people, either now or in the future.
One thing I see lots of people doing, myself included, is over promising. In the heat of the moment it’s easy to overstate what you can achieve so go in knowing yourself well. And remember this mantra: promise less, deliver more.
Forget what you want
While you may be tempted to network just to land a job or talk to people you normally wouldn’t have access to, that’s a mistake. Instead, make it your goal to be open, friendly and honest, and to forge connections between people who may be able to help each other. Generosity is an attractive quality and it’s something special that people will remember about you.
Never dismiss anyone as unimportant
Make it your mission to discover the value in each person you talk to. Ask questions and listen with interest. Don’t make the mistake of discounting people due to their titles. Someone you meet may “just” be a clerk, but they may have valuable connections or knowledge you’d never learn about if you’d dismissed them.
Then, when the conversation ends, remember what that person has to offer as you move to the next.more.
Connect the dots
Once you begin to listen to people and learn what they can bring to the table, you’ll start realizing how one person in the room may be able to help another. Make it a point to connect people you feel have something of genuine value to each other. When you go out of your way to make those potentially promising connections, you’re doing your part to make the networking event a success.
Figure out how you can be useful
Before any conversation comes to a close, be sure to ask, “How can I help you?” Because it’s done so rarely, you may encounter a surprised look, but it will most likely be accompanied by an appreciative smile. While the person may not have an answer for you that night, they may have an idea later. Always close by saying something like, “If you need anything, let me know” and give them a business card.
Which leads us to:
It seems simple but if you don’t have a simple way of giving someone your information you’re not going to be able to effectively network. If you already have business cards make sure you take plenty, if you need some take look at websites like www.instantprint.com who I highly recommend.
Follow up and follow through.
If you told someone you’d get in touch with them, do it and reaffirm your intent to assist in any way you can. If you promised to introduce someone to a person you know, take the time to do it. Everyone is busy these days with jobs, families, events, commitments – even so, it takes no more than a minute to shoot off an email to introduce two people you want to connect. They can take it from there and do the work — just enjoy being the bridge. Little things like that mean a lot to people and just one introduction can end up changing someone’s life for the better. I’ve seen it happen dozens of times and it’s quite gratifying.