Whether you’ve got your own private office, an open-plan space or even utilise a shared office, one thing for sure is Networking is now part of your arsenal of business tools. Unfortunately, Networking can make people feel anxious and nervous – but it’s important to remember that networking is a skill, and like any other skill it can be developed with training and coaching. People’s perception on networking is that it’s about sales and making deals, but it’s not just that, networking is also about building connections, learning, seeing opportunities, mentoring and helping others. Here are eight ways to network successfully and have fun doing it.
Have 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.
Start networking before you need it. People can sense when someone is only out to help himself. Tip-offs ranging from a panicked look in the eyes to a portfolio brimming with resumes will send them running in the other direction. On the other hand, by networking when you have no ulterior motive, you can begin to build relationships and a reputation for being generous rather than self-serving.
Forget your personal agenda. 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.
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. Always close by saying something like, “If you need anything, please reach out to me or connect via LinkedIn” and present your business card.
Connect the dots. Once you begin to listen to people, you’ll start realising how one person in the room may be able to help another. 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.
Follow up and follow through. 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. Believe in the power of networking.
When you believe that the true value of networking lies in helping others and you do your part, you’ll soon discover magic happening all around you. The beauty of this approach is that you never know when that magic may cast its spell on you. And remember… Enjoy yourself!