What is networking?
We hear people talk about going to a “networking” event. We hear that we should grow our “network.” Here’s one I really like, Your “network” is your “net worth.” What do you think when you hear these discussions, hear business consultants talking? Authors – You hear all the marketers saying, “Build your platform.” Some even have other words to explain the efforts to build relationships – community, circle of influence, tribe – are just a few.
The dictionary defines networking as “interacting with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career.”
Networking is the best way I know to meet NEW people and develop and build RELATIONSHIPS.
There’s no doubt that networking can give your career a good boost or introduce you to your next client – or both. Many potential clients do not realize yet that they could use someone with your expertise until they meet you and know what you do. Positions are ultimately filled, and client opportunities discovered, by someone that knew someone that knew someone else. It’s important to put yourself within that social chain.
With the internet, it’s not as important to network face to face, but it’s still necessary to get the most from your networking efforts.
Remember that everyone you meet is an opportunity to network. Here are some tips to help you “Network Like A Pro.”
Spend some time this week networking and making new contacts with these tips:
- Examine your current resources. You already know someone that is well-connected. Think about all of your friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers. Consider your entire social network. Maybe you’re a member of a church, Moose Lodge, or a local women’s group. Are you leveraging those contacts effectively?
- The key to effective networking is consistency and persistence. A little each day is more effective than a monumental effort every once in a while. It’s like going to the gym. You need to be consistent in your efforts if you want to see big results. Set aside time to reach out to people each week.
- Join relevant local and national organizations. Whether you’re a chemist, firefighter, priest, school teacher, or plumber, there are organizations that cater to your needs and interests. Become a part of them. In many cases, your employer will foot the bill. Do some research and see what you can find.
- Make use of social media. Both Facebook and Linkedin are great for networking. Utilize social media and make your presence known to the world. Make contact with a few people regularly using social media.
- Be proactive. You can’t just stand in the middle of the crowd at a networking event and expect people to line up for the privilege of talking to you. The burden is on you to start conversations. Take the bull by the horns and mingle. You’ll get much better with practice.
- Learn to ask open-ended questions. It’s hard to maintain a conversation by asking questions that can be answered with a “yes” or “no”. Ask questions that require a detailed answer. You’ll find it much easier to speak with others when you use open-ended questions.
- Follow up religiously. Communicating with someone one time won’t do much for you. Reach out to the most promising contacts you’ve made and touch base. Stay in touch.
- You can’t expect to receive more effort and value than you provide. You truly receive what you give when it comes to networking. You won’t get much if you don’t give much. Make a real effort to help others.
- Focus on quality over quantity. Passing out your business card like you’re passing out car wash coupons won’t do you a lot of good. Everyone can see what you’re doing. Make an effort to make a few real connections rather than throwing a 100 darts at the wall. Quality counts.
- Connect others together. This can be especially powerful. Bring other people together. This is especially easy to do and can pay off down the road for your own career.
- Avoid selling or asking for anything. If every time you reach out to someone you’re trying to get something from them, people will tire of you very quickly. Instead, give them something. “I know you’re interested in growing your Instagram account. Here’s an email I thought would interest you.”
As you can see, networking can be an effective way to begin the process of building relationships with potential clients, employers or partners. You also get to know people who can give you referrals. Be sure that you’re also doing all you can for your network. The more value you provide, the more you’re likely to receive.