Networking is about being authentically interested in finding out about a person and honestly wanting to know them well enough to positively affect their business, their lives, and their interests. We network for things now that we want 2, 4, 6, and 12 months from now. And remember that the more you give to a person, the better they’ll think of you and the more they’ll open their network to you.
And what does that mean exactly? Well … everyone knows roughly about 250 people, and if we impress someone to the point where they “know and like” us, they will probably open their network of 250 up to us. So if I network well with one person, I’ll have access to 500 people (my 250, plus their 250). If I network well with 5 people, I’ll have access to 1,250 people. Network well with 10 people that means 2,500 people, and so on, and so on. It’s a powerful concept especially when you are searing for a job.
Here are 5 tips on how to network effectively, even when you are feeling awkward and nervous.
Tip #1: If you are really nervous about approaching someone, don’t approach them just yet. Observe and watch others in the room. See how they do it and read their body language. Are they establishing good eye contact, but not staring people down?! Are they shaking hands and smiling at the same time? Learning from masters is a great first step and I recommend reading Vault’s Guide to Schmoozing where you can learn about the greatest networkers of all time.
Tip #2: Ask open ended questions like how did they get into the business they are in, or what was their best day in that business? Keep it positive but allow them to do the talking! LISTEN to the responses of these questions and you’ll be on your way to creating that long term mutually beneficial relationship. It must be authentic as well … you can’t act like you are interested or it will surely fail. Another great networking question would be to ask what advice they could give to you at this point in your career. Again – the trick is to NOT ask for a job.
Tip #3: Have thick skin. If someone doesn’t get back to you, do not take it personally. Continue to network with them by sending them articles that may be of interest to them (if you let them talk enough, you’ll find out what they are interested in), send them a holiday card, send them an article about their company, their industry, about themselves if they are in the news.
Tip #4: Create a LinkedIn account, and start to include everyone you know. This should include present and past co-workers, people you went to school with, people you play sports with, people from your place of worship. In fact, as an exercise, you should create a list of at least 100 people you know, and attempt to connect with them via LinkedIn.
Tip #5: Ramp up activities during prime networking seasons/events like the holidays and summertime BBQs. Get out there and act like things are going well because positive attracts positive and negativity repels.
These five tips will definitely get you solidly on your way towards networking more and being more comfortable while doing so. And I’ll throw in a Tip #6: Keep a calendar and proactively network with people every single day because they more you network, the easier it will become. The world couldn’t turn and business couldn’t be done without networking, yet you’ll not find one networking class in a college or university. Remember to not ask for something. That will make people run in the opposite direction. Networking is about creating a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship of give and take, with the emphasis on the give!
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