Why is networking so important? The simple answer is that as natural social beings, we need people.
From an entrepreneur’s perspective, everyone you meet can be useful to you in three ways 1) they could be a potential customer, 2) they could be a potential business partner and 3) they could know someone you need to know to take your business to the next level.
I recently got a job offer in Management Consulting at Atkins and this was due to a referral and support from an old friend I reconnected with at another friend’s birthday brunch. I asked her what she was doing with her life to start the conversation and the rest is history.
What is networking? Networking is simply building a relationship I personally think of networking as the same way of dating. Usually the more time you invest in your relationship the stronger the relationship and the longer it will be. Below are steps to becoming an effective networker.
Step 1: Be confident and be prepared, always have two or three open ended question to ask “What key skills have you developed working in your role in the last 2 years”. The beauty of networking is that you meet someone new, someone who doesn’t know you therefore you can be who ever you want to be, who you were or what you did before doesn’t matter (TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS).
Step 2: Listen, Nod and Smile. Always take an interest in what the other person is saying. This is not only important to hold the conversation but it is also very important because you need the information you speak about to use as a follow up in the communication via email.
Step 3: This brings me nicely to my next point, Connect. Ask for a business card and follow up. This is an area where most people fail (even myself). I suggest follow up should be within three days in order to ensure the relationship built initially, doesn’t get cold.
Step 4: Your personal brand (second impression is as important as first impression). When I go to events and meet people I always Google or LinkedIn them to get a better understanding and to verify who they are. Ensure your Facebook is on private if there are inappropriate pictures of you there. Ensure your achievements are updated on LinkedIn and you have a suitable picture that reflects your profession.
Step 5: Make a constant effort to keep in touch with your new contact. It is very easy to contact your new contact when you need help however a true networker will always touch base every now and again. This is very hard to do especially when your new contact is a senior executive, from my experience always do research on what your contact is interested in. Nowadays most senior executive would have written or blogged about an issue in their industry of expertise (Google is your friend) this could be a good way to spark up conversation with your contact for example, “I read the article you wrote yesterday I found it very interesting but how about the issue of XYZ, how those affect your industry”.
Networking skill is like a muscle the more you work on it the stronger it becomes and the more confident you are at using it. Finally never underestimate anyone you meet, I have met some destiny connector at the most random places.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Michael Zhang