Everyone Can (and Should) Network
Of course your skills and knowledge make you valuable to your employer, but never underestimate the value of a network as well. This world truly operates by the mantra of “who you know” and many non-networkers don’t see the value of knowing other professionals in their industry, particularly when they sit behind a desk all day or aren’t in a sales role.
Networking is not just for folks looking for a job or trying to sell a product. It’s also great for learning new trends and best practices within an industry. I often ask my counterparts at other organizations how they handle common problems we all see. Learning from their experience is priceless!
For those who have a strong network, the basics are commonplace, but I understand that it doesn’t come naturally for everyone, so I’m here to give a few words of wisdom on how to get started for those who need some tips and encouragement.
Do not be intimidated
Every successful business professional was once a nobody and they each got started the same way. Remember that they are all people like you who are overworked, don’t get enough sleep, have just as much stress at home as they have at the office, etc.
People love to talk about themselves. “So what do you do,” or “tell me more about your business,” are always good ice breakers, but what comes next, right? If you are really interested in learning more about this person, listen to their answers and follow up with more detailed questions. If they mention customers, ask who their customers are. If they mention a project or program you’ve not heard about, ask how it got started, who’s involved, or what the goals are. Once they start talking about something they’re working on, you’ll be surprised how easily the details flow.
Find a commonality
I love talking about dogs, music and great restaurants. If you’ve seen a good movie recently or been to a great new restaurant in town, bring it up by asking if the other person has seen it or visited it. If someone mentions kids or a dog (and you like kids or dogs), ask how old they are and other questions to learn more about them personally. Building a professional relationship doesn’t mean you can’t know them personally as well.
Make it genuine
One of my mentors says that success occurs through GENUINE relationship building. If it’s forced or fake, it won’t work. Now that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t force yourself out of your comfort zone to network. It means that you should genuinely want to get to know people and not always have the “how can they help me” mentality underneath. I’ve met some amazing people through networking who will never bring a dime to my business, but I’m still thrilled I met them!
No one likes getting stuck with the person who won’t leave you alone. Don’t be that person and don’t waste your time with those people! It’s absolutely okay to say “it’s been great meeting you,” shake hands, and walk away (once you’ve asked and answered a few questions for one another). And if someone has you trapped, try telling the person you need to refill your glass or say hello to someone you know who just arrived.
Finally, after getting some business cards at a networking event, put the contact info in your contact list with a description of where and when you met them, and then go on LinkedIn and ask them to join your professional network. This is a great way to stay up-to-date on their job status as time passes and to reach them in the future. Plus, it helps you remember the person by seeing his/her face, which is typically not on the business card.
Try putting these into practice and start building your network today, one contact at a time!
Looking for one-on-one coaching on how to become a super-networker? Contact us.