No wonder some people go cold at the idea that they need to “network.” When did schools ever actually give children the really required skills to thrive in the world of business.
Our education is out of date and relatively useless for the world of work and I am saddened by the fact that small lessons such as, “how to network,” could massively change the lives of those that are placed in business environments, even interview days without any really training and awareness of how best to approach uncomfortable situations.
If you dread the moment someone says the word ‘networking’ here is the most valuable method I have found to make the hideous challenge of going into a room of strangers easier and more productive. The simplest knowledge of the whom to approach, the how to approach and the awareness of the following suggestion will improve your outcomes for the rest of your life. Enter the room and do not dive for the coffee table (unless of course you really really need one,” apply your time more valuably and approach any group of three people in the room. NOT the two people’ talking pair. The two’s have eye contact with each other and with no need to look elsewhere. No need to disconnect perhaps from a private conversation but the three’s always enable an approach because simply put one person is already on the edge, being left out as you can only have eye contact with one person at a time. Check out the three gathered, see who’s talking to whom and move to be physically on the edge of the shoulder of the person not as wholly engaged in the conversation. They may quite likely be looking to speak to someone, may indeed be very grateful for you showing interest. You’ll be amazed how well this works time and again. Be ready then with the question and showing interest in the person you have chosen to engage with. It is not about you when you start a new conversation it is about giving to get.
We can’t deny the benefits of a strong professional network, but it can be very uncomfortable, even terrifyingly awkward and draining if you go in with a negative association the second you walk through the door. I used to as a young woman enter rooms full of suits whom knew me from nobody, perhaps bankers or other business leaders and I have to have a mindset that was positive and brave from the outset as I was always the minority and often ignored. Worry not about how people perceive you, execute to your best of professional abilities and you will find someone of interest and someone whom brightens your day.
Perhaps we should remind ourselves why it’s so important we learn to get better in these situations and indeed how we can extract value from what to some is the most difficult of all business environments.
WHAT DOES NETWORKING ACTUALLY POTENTIALLY GIVE YOU and your business…because it does come in this order.
It’s not simply swapping a business card with someone; it’s about getting to know new people, new influencers, perhaps meeting those in roles aligned to yours working in the space but doing something different that would appeal. Perhaps opening a door to an introduction that can accelerate your potential. Nevertheless, you have to bring and offer value and of course hierarchy sneaks in with heavy titled business cards in some environments which can be off-putting. These days where data is the new currency, work towards being the expert in your field, to being the best connected, to indeed having the broadest network out of which you bring boundless opportunities. Building a long-term relationship that’s mutually beneficial means you also have to do what you have said you will.
Do not forget you never know where opportunity might arise. Improving your connections, doesn’t just include people you meet at big specifically, “for,” networking events, those for your own sector gatherings. Sometimes you can simply meet people in a co-working space, at a friend’s get together, possibilities are endless when you being to push yourself to speak to new people. I learned very early to speak to strangers and amusingly often remind audiences that as parents we teach our children not to speak to strangers, the irony is that for the rest of our lives we often make our way further and faster by having the skills to talk and build relationships with others, often starting with strangers.
IT’S IMPORTANT AND HELPS BUT WHY?
In short what you give is what you get. If you close off from people and don’t reach out to help people once in a while, there is a chance they won’t either, but building relationships you’re extending your resources, and knowledge library, like they say “Two brains is bigger than one”, imagine what 10 brains can do? Brainstorms, the using the minds of many always delivers much more interesting and useful thoughts and approaches, gathering different people from different parts of a business always brings better progress and a more complete set of knowledge, the same applies to the mix of people with whom you choose to spend your time. Just because today you might be the least knowledgeable in the room, no one knows that so, bring a smile, a positive attitude and that alone makes you more approachable and ready to learn and be shared with.
HELPING YOUR CAREER DEVELOPMENT?
Progressing in your career path is based on a number of aspects. Your experience, your success, your increasing knowledge in your area, and your ability to build on constrictive criticism. However, like school the chance to develop all these areas are entirely dependent on you going out and getting it. Having a solid ‘little black book,’ of people you can reach out to opens a variety of doors to opportunities you’d otherwise be closed off to without them.
BONUS: Building friendships in your professional circle is a great way to get your foot in the door with any new positions going you may have your eye on.
NETWORKING DOESN’T ALWAYS HAVE TO LEAVE YOUR WORKPLACE
Sometimes you can get wrapped up in the idea of looking far and wide for people to join your network, and while of course that is helpful, there is no one that can help you more in your position than your own team. It’s imperative that you build a solid trusting relationship with them too. They are your best chance at finding a mentor, being in a good position to hear and apply for new positions for development.
HOW TO NETWORK EFFECTIVELY
Follow up, do deliver on a promise to introduce someone as discussed, or to share data or to send someone something that makes them smile. This is a relationship, the start of a new friendship, don’t let your new contact down, give to get. Talking to someone once is not enough. I’m not saying call them every Monday and ask them how their mum is doing, but if you come across an interesting article or valuable information, it costs nothing to share it with them. The post may be old fashioned but these day’s I’d say it can be a new fashion way of staying simply in touch. Sending someone an uplifting text, reminding them you’re in their thoughts and providing value, then when you need something you have build up an invested level which allows someone to repay. It’s always important to build mutual relationships and be of value to someone one. People are less inclined to talk to you if you’re always asking something of them.
Last advice is don’t put it off, like all things well practiced, networking get’s easier, the worst that can happen is that you don’t have a relationship you didn’t have to begin with. The best, new profitable opportunities are starting all over the place and you might be missing out, god forbid being beaten by someone a little braver.
About the author
Lara Morgan, mother, entrepreneur, investor in wickedly cool life improving brands like Scentered.com, Gate8-luggage, KitBrix, Dryrobe and Global Amenities
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