You may not realise it but your fellow human beings are a great resource to you, and knowing the right people can open doors for you in places that you may never have imagined. In this regard it is in your best interest to learn how to network effectively. Networking can help you in many areas of your life, for instance finding a job or getting a new line of business.
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” You’ve most likely heard this phrase, which simply alludes to the fact that your talents, abilities and vast experience may not take you very far if people are not aware of your existence. This alludes to the importance of networking. Networking is simply interacting with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career or business.
Some people have a negative attitude towards networking as they find it pretentious and insincere. While this may be true in some cases, there are people who are genuinely interested in forming honest, mutually beneficial relationships with others. When you start networking it is up to you to sift through people and find those worth knowing, something you will get better at as you practice.
Networking may take time and effort, especially for people who are generally introverted. Before you dismiss it, think of how much time and frustration it may save you if what you wanted or needed at one time was only a phone call away. Networking is, in the long run, a worthwhile investment whose benefits far outweigh its costs if one is patient enough to keep doing it. Here are a few networking tips.
Give back as much as you can. Be generous. Think of ways in which YOU can be of help to others. Giving is a vital element of successful networking. Remember you’re looking to build a mutually beneficial relationship. If you have an opportunity or idea that you feel someone from your network would be interested in, by all means reach out to him or her. What you offer doesn’t also have to be work-related. When networking, compliments, good listening skills and other valuable gestures of kindness and generosity go a long way in forming good relationships.
Make use of the Internet. With the advent of social media, it’s been made easy to connect with other like-minded individuals through platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, and Google Plus, among others. Take advantage of these to develop useful online contacts.
Reach out to your network. Tapping into one’s network is also an important part of networking. This is an aspect of networking that makes many uncomfortable. If you have developed a relationship well, it shouldn’t be too hard to ask for help or a favour from someone in your network who is in a position to assist you. It’s however important to be tactful when asking. Don’t be forceful or demand a favour, and always remember to be courteous, whether or not you were able to get what you wanted.
Attend events. This is especially important if they are related to your work. Don’t hesitate to position yourself to meet a person in your industry that you would want to know. Also, go to events you enjoy especially where you will be in a good position to mingle, and hopefully form relationships with people of similar interests.
Maintain the network. Follow up and keep in touch with people in your network. Don’t get someone’s business card or e-mail address then forget about it. Find a way to stay in touch. Send a card during Easter or Christmas, or drop them an email once in a while just to say ‘hi’. Don’t expect to call out of the blue to ask for a favour if you have never had any other interaction with someone.
Never ask for anything from someone you just met. Avoid suggesting that you do business together or asking for a job from someone you just met. Networking is not about getting favours from people or passing out your business cards.
Never try to sell a product or service to someone you just met at a networking function. You may be perceived as pushy and desperate.
Don’t just stand in one place waiting to be approached. Reach out to people around you.
Don’t ambush people you think may connect you or give you a job in public, at their offices or even online, in a bid to network.
Avoid monopolising conversations by talking about yourself.
Published on October 2012