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?
I described the Foundations of Good Networking In Part I of Taking the Cringe Factor Out of Networking. Part I was all about being genuine and sincere as an individual, by applying simple tools to the foundation of your networking efforts:
# 1 Re-connecting before you start to network
# 2 Investing time & money into your networking
# 3 Practising genuine contact vs. stalking
# 4 Personable relationship building with smart questions
Most of my clients feel that this is the kind of strategic behaviour some people see as sleazy and shallow. So, the question is, what makes networking sincere?
You need to add 3 support structures on top of your networking foundation.
Sincerity, warmth and curiosity – these three behaviours will deliver networking contacts and engagement. You can design and shape them to best suit your needs without changing who you are and how you like to present yourself, but you have to attend to them with sincerity or you will fail.
The last and most important networking element is generosity. Add generosity on top of your three networking support activities to ensure that your networking efforts become solid and deliver good returns.
Here are my last 4 networking tips that bring success:
# 5 Sincerity is the key to the heart
I can’t stress enough how important sincerity is. How can you establish mutually beneficial relationships without seeming fawning and self-serving? How can you leverage your network with confidence and initiative, but without desperation? How do you network without brownnosing? Here are a few simple steps:
- At Work or Play, Make Time to Connect with Others as People
Make an effort to build relationship development into work or play as day-to-day actions, not just when you need assistance. You will have success with networking if you have learned to promote trust and your integrity, by regularly showing genuine concern for others, and by making connections outside your work-based roles.
- Do What You Say You’re Going to Do
Do you do what you say you are going to do? People are energized by a specific task or goal only if they can believe in the integrity of the other person (or people) involved. Talk is cheap!
- Make it Bigger Than your Wants
People are energized in the presence of others who stand for something larger than themselves. I love being an energizer because I often benefit from the pursuit, and I am focused on doing the right thing and not exclusively on personal gain.
- Get others involved or allow them to Contribute
You don’t need a leader personality to gather people around you. Just try to be flexible and don’t force others to agree with your way of thinking. Genuine people draw others into conversations and projects, by finding opportunities for them to contribute… to me – that’s one of the best parts of networking.
# 6 Warmth draws people to you
- Criticize Ideas, not People
If you disagree with someone, focus your attention on the issue and not on the value of that person’s contributions…networkers who have warmth are able to disagree with an idea without marginalizing the person who presented it.
- Don’t Let Your Expertise Make Others Feel Inferior — Smartypants Syndrome
Do you use your expertise appropriately? Expertise, if used too aggressively, shuts down innovative thinking and strips others of the opportunity to contribute. Don’t be a Mr.SmartyPants!
# 7 Curiosity is more important than knowledge
- Move Your Desk
Most people constantly make excuses: “I’m shy”. “Talking to new people makes me break out with hives and a cold sweat”. It does not matter – employed or unemployed – Move Your desk – venture out. Meet new people and visit new places. And if you are not good at approaching new people – still move to a different location. Just ensure to situate yourself strategically, so they’ll come to you.
# 8 Generosity Trumps Intelligence and Power
I know what you might be thinking. You want to build up a healthy network. But all these meetings might get expensive. And that can lead to second thoughts…
- Not everything is about money – Try to find your Power-Connectors
Look back at your own opportunities, and think about how they began. When you trace them back, notice if multiple friends and opportunities came your way through the same person. These people are “Power-connectors.” Who helped you get your current job? Your previous job? Through whom did you meet the majority of your friends? Seeing any patterns? Don’t tell me it was all just your hard work. That’s so cliché! If you only send a few emails or make a few calls it should be to those people, because a small investment there can pay off big.
- Who’s an easy first Power-connector? Contact your mentor!
(Don’t have a mentor? All successful people have mentors. To find a good mentor for you, click here.)
- Offer lots of Five Minute Favours – It Doesn’t cost a Penny!
One of the most common problems people have with networking is how to follow up: I learned to improve my own networking skills by regularly committing to a Five Minute Favour.
Imagine this. What if you just took a couple minutes every day to try to help someone in a way that is a small commitment to you, but could be a large benefit to them? To me, it is the most powerful and inexpensive networking tool ever. Imagine you are becoming a Giver. You’re even making a game out of it, trying to figure out the best way to help others. Now it’s time to flip that on its head.
- Cement your New Relationship by Asking For a Favour
Asking people for favours can actually strengthen the bond between you. How can you do this without coming off like a selfish taker? Just stick to the “rule of two”: give two favours before asking for one.
Remember what I wrote in Part I of this blog: Rule # 4 about the 3 smart questions.
Now it’s all starting to come together. You see it’s not Rocket Science! I actually believe that it is 99 % Common Sense, but we are all so busy and stressed that we forget to apply simple genuine behaviour and strategies. Just be yourself! Oh and before I forget ….One last thing.
PARTY! Have some Fun!
Good networkers build bridges, becoming a linchpin between disparate networks. To me really great Networkers form communities. They make sure that their contacts get to know each other, exponentially increasing their connections and opportunities.
How do they do that? They have fun, they invite each other to functions– they throw a party! It’s a trend you see again and again among good networkers. It doesn’t have to be a big money event. Try a breakfast club, a Friday session after work, or a meeting with your club mates. Get your network going and introduce your connections to each other. You will soon notice an improvement, and your network will grow.
Be open and genuine and remember to hunt wisely!