Every professional needs to network – there are no exceptions! But how do you stand out as a valuable networker instead of coming across like a stalker?
In case you haven’t noticed, there is a reality TV show on almost every topic except networking. The guys at channel 7, 9 or 10 haven’t picked that subject yet, because their producers are clued in to the fact that nothing they create would beat the reality of the best and worst examples, which are just a few mouse clicks away on www.linkedin.com
Don’t worry LinkedIn fans and advocates! This is not a rant on LinkedIn or its users. I am sure we all agree that it is a very professional networking portal, but it is not the Holy Grail and certainly not a foolproof way to avoid negative networking experiences.
Networking is one of the 5 most important things I recommend people do every week if they plan to change careers or search for a new job. Networking is vital to staying employed, salary growth and job satisfaction. It also makes you more likely to land a new job. I did not learn to network overnight and I certainly did not receive real results with my first contacts but with time and practise I realised 4 key things.
- Networking makes you more likely to be successful at your job.
- It makes you more creative in your job.
- It makes you more likely to become an expert at your job.
- And last but not least, having a big network even makes you luckier.
I guess you get it. Right? Networking is essential. But how do we do it? Like I said – I don’t claim to be a superstar on the subject of networking, but I have read many books, talked with and listened to my own mentors when I was an employee, and now I’ve got some useful answers to offer.
And if you are like me, one of those people who hates the word “networking” because it seems sleazy, rest assured I’ve got that covered too. So – enough introduction – like everything in life, you have to get started somewhere. I have 8 solutions that all work. You can attack them all at once or take them one at a time. Your pick.
Here are my first 4 networking tips that bring success:
1) Start by re-connecting before you get onto connecting or networking
You hate networking. Or you’re bad at it. Or you’re hopelessly lazy and have the attention span of a goldfish. Then just go play on Facebook. I’m being serious. Sorry LinkedIn – Please don’t blacklist my blog post yet – read on and you will learn that it’s actually good advice for LinkedIn members too.
Ok – so, an excellent first step, is to reconnect with old friends. I learned from practising it myself that dormant relationships – often overlooked or underutilized – can be a valuable source of knowledge and social capital. I have developed my own simple methods or reasons to re-connect: See if any of these work for you:
Every day send a friend, a member of your family, or a co-worker a message and say Thank You for something. Keep it simple and honest. This might sound a bit silly, but it is actually great advice and will make you feel better about your life.
On the Job
At the end of every week, send your boss a message and summarise what you have achieved. Don’t worry about what he/or she might think. This message lets them know what you have been up to without having to ask for updates and they will appreciate and rely on it.
Once a week send an email to a mentor. Guys, this doesn’t have to be related to your job. Every week, I receive at least 2 or 3 emails from followers of my blog posts who want some more insight and tips. It’s the age of the internet, you have access to Google and if you have half an ounce of interest in something, you will find someone you admire. Ask yourself, who do you admire that you can learn from? It does not take much effort to find almost anyone’s email address or Twitter profile and even more details if they have a website.
The real Friends
Call or text or Facebook message your real friends and make real plans!
And what should you contact them about? Just make plans to get together. The rest will come naturally if they are real friends.
Send an email to someone you know (but don’t know very well) and check in. I have done this regularly and learned that these “weak ties” become the primary source of future career opportunities. This is not for the faint hearted, but if you are gutsy and hungry enough, you too will find that these “weak-tie” acquaintances are often more important than our friends because they give us access to additional social networks.
And when you get into these new circles, don’t stress too much about what to say or do. Just do any little thing that benefits them, not you. That’s the first real step to successful networking.
2) Don’t behave like a stalker
When it comes to business contacts, put the emphasis on building “relationships.” When it comes to meeting new people, I always keep in mind that I want to be someone who genuinely demonstrates “warmth, curiosity, and generosity.” I have tried many approaches and quickly realised that most people evaluate everyone they meet in terms of warmth and competence. And of the two guess which matters more? Yup, warmth.
And then there’s the importance of curiosity. Actively showing interest in other people is powerful — and kind, and the best guarantee to be re-invited to other networking events.
3) Invest in Your Network
I am not kidding. You get back what you invest. So I suggest that you set aside money so you can jump on opportunities to meet new people.
Setting this money aside can make networking much less stressful. You don’t need much. Budget between $100 and $500 and you will learn that it automatically increases the likelihood that you will follow through on networking opportunities.
The other investment is Time, the best way to start is a new habit to Never Eat Alone.
I recommend that you read the book, by Keith Ferrazzi because it opened my eyes and helped me create a new circle of friends and business networks. Reading this book also taught me how to socialise well, and to ignore my distracting gadgets. I invested early in my network and it really paid off.
You’ve got a burgeoning network and have set aside time and money to focus on networking. Great. But, now what do you actually do and say?
4) ALWAYS ask these Three Simple Networking Questions
When you are in networking mode, ensure you are friendly, but you also want to lay down the foundation of a relationship that is mutually beneficial.
That’s what everyone wants out of a relationship. Ensure that you ALWAYS ask these 3 questions before you leave any meeting or networking encounter.
- Question # 1 “How can I help you?” This gives you an opportunity to add value right away with a suggestion, a referral, or an opportunity, and it will establish you as a giver and potentially someone they want to know.
- Question # 2 “What ideas do you have for me?” Asking for ideas allows the people you are talking with to reciprocate or add value to you as you have (hopefully) done for them.
- Question # 3 “Who else do you know that I should talk to?” The very connection you need to make may be in this individual’s network, and this is the best way to make it happen.
So, here you have the first four of 8 useful steps to genuine networking. For more on what keeps networking sincere, how being genuine and positive can boost your career, and more about smart strategic networking behaviour that does not come across as sleazy and shallow, just tune back in Friday when I post Part II of Taking the Cringe Factor out of Networking.
Feel free to contact me if you require assistance. I have three 1 hour pro – bono slots for 3 job seekers every second Friday of the month for some free job search coaching. Share this opportunity with your friends if you know someone who is networking and/or apply the tips yourself.
Just always remember to hunt wisely!