Networking is a healthy life skill that’s not just for people in management roles. It’s for everyone. When I speak with people about networking, some shy away from the concept as it’s seemingly daunting. Comments such as, ‘Nothing could be worse than going to an event and having to make small talk with people.’ I’ll pop some resources at the end of this post with useful networking information for people who feel this way or are more introverted.
This post outlines some strategies to help you network better. Please note that these pointers have been summarised from an article via Time called 10 Networking Tips That Will Make You a Success.
Firstly – Why Network?
For business professionals, reasons to network include:
- New clients, customers or business referrals
- Increased job satisfaction and positive performance reviews
- Professional development and training opportunities
- Career advancement or landing a new job
You may have a particular challenge that someone in your network has the answer to. Connecting with others and having meaningful discussions can help you to be creative or innovative in your work.
Ways to Network
Reconnect with old friends or dormant relationships via social media – LinkedIn, Facebook or send an email to say ‘hello’. Find a common link that gives you a reason to hook up for a coffee.
Move your desk (if possible) by positioning yourself where you are more in the “action” and have the opportunity to engage more with colleagues – even if it’s just to hear more about what’s going on. If you work for yourself, consider spending time in a coworking space – it’s what I did!
Find your warm leads – Think about who helped you get your current job or through whom you met the majority of your friends. Write a list of key contacts and think about getting in touch with them.
Coffee Catch-Ups. For me, networking is about coffee catch-ups rather than formal business meetings or ‘interviews’. Putting energy towards meeting up with people is about committing time and money, so look ahead at your diary, block out suitable times AND be prepared to graciously ‘shout’ the coffee.
Three Golden Questions (what to say) – You want your meetings to be friendly and personal, but you also want to lay down the foundation of a relationship that is mutually beneficial. Consider these three questions:
- ‘How can I help you?’ – gives you an opportunity to add value immediately with a suggestion, referral or an opportunity and will establish you as a giver.
- ‘What ideas do you have for me?’ – this question lets them add value to you.
- ‘Who else do you know that I should talk to?’ – the very connection you need may be in this individual’s network.
Being inquisitive shows that you are interested in what they have to say and you will often learn something new by listening.
How not to be ‘salesy’ – Keeping the discussion sincere is done by thinking of these three words:
- Warmth – authentic self
- Curiosity – actively showing interest
- Generosity – see ‘The Five Minute Favour’
The Five Minute Favour – If you can do something for someone that will take less than five minutes, just do it. By giving or doing random acts of kindness you will build up credibility to be able to ask a favour in return.
Cement a relationship by asking for a favour – We tend to underestimate how helpful people are. Asking people for favours can strengthen the bond between you. Don’t forget to always thank people for their time/efforts. I always follow up with an email after our meeting to show respect to their giving their time – you can read about this HERE in my post about gratitude.
Party – Organise and/or attend regular get-togethers such as a monthly breakfast, morning tea or after five drinks. Join a networking association or industry group. You never know who you will meet and where conversations will lead.
When I first read the Time article with the above networking tips I realised that I naturally did most of these things to help me meet people when I moved to Central Victoria. I enjoy the social interactions involved with meeting new people – whether personally or in business – and find that getting involved, attending events or inviting people for coffee helps me strengthen my professional relationships.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Book by Susan Cain)
Three Ways to Help Introverts in Their Job Search by Bob McIntosh at Things Career Related
Networking for Introverts by Ken Mattson, Career Professional