Networking for Success
If the very word networking strikes terror into your heart then we need to demystify it before you can get the benefit. In most societies there is an ‘old boy’s network’ or equivalent, a ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your’s’ culture. You may be aware of it within your own company perhaps if it still exists. Don’t be put off by that; modernity is taking over thanks to more open attitudes, multi-national ways of working and, of course, the rise of social media which introduces a whole new way of networking.
Networking at its best is about building relationships and if you like people and have an interest in offering help when you can, then you’re a natural networker. If you receive help in return from your network, then that’s a bonus.
Places to network
There are less traditional ways of connecting people these days via the internet, for example:
Online chat rooms associated with professional and interest groups, can be a place to ‘meet’ people
Social media sites, like Face book and Linked In, the latter being more appropriate for professional networking as that was what it was set up to do. Even if you don’t use Linked In to contact people, it is a useful place to find out more about those you have already met at a networking event and to extend the connection with them. LI groups can be useful to find out what’s going on in your industry in certain countries or worldwide.
Of course, turning up at a networking meeting is still the traditional way to get mixing with ‘new’ people, for example:
Go to places where you already have something in common with the members – a professional interest group, the Chamber of Commerce, a women’s business group – you choose what’s most appropriate. As you have shared interests this makes it easier to integrate and find something to talk about
Speed networking – this is a bit like Speed Dating and is often attended by business people looking for new contacts. It might be a bit impersonal but at least you don’t have to pretend- you are all there for the same reason!
Tips for networking success
A ‘me, me, me’ attitude won’t work for long at networking events. Put the focus on the other person and getting to know something about them.
At the event, make a point of speaking to the organiser; they will probably introduce you to others in the group and you’re away. Email them a ‘thank you ‘afterwards too.
Aim to have two or three good conversations with ‘new people’ at a networking event.
Follow up these conversations with an email or telephone call. Invite the person for coffee or lunch to get to know them better.
Send interesting articles to those you’ve met with a ‘thought you might like this’ note attached
Offer your help where you can
Plan your networking time judiciously and be clear what your objective is. There are a lot of events around so you can spend a lot of time on the process – be clear why you’re doing it
Those people who see networking solely as a business card collecting opportunity and going to be disappointed in the long run.
If a friend says ‘you must meet so-and-so’, then suggest the three of you meet up initially. Your friend will be your ‘live’ testimonial
Networking is a bit like dating: you need to put yourself ‘out there’ whether it be virtually or physically. You wouldn’t expect a proposal of marriage at your first meeting so don’t be disappointed if job offers don’t come falling from the sky immediately. Follow-up is key and asking for that second date.