How do you feel about networking?
Any successful professional can tell you that networking is absolutely an essential skill to build a career. Despite its importance, many people find the practice tedious and fake. This negative association has led many to under invest time and effort into building a meaningful network of their own. Fortunately, networking does not have to be this way if you can cultivate positive habits. If you wish to become more effective at connecting with people, consider these approaches.
Do it Daily
If you ever wonder how to get started on networking, this is the best way to do so. Take a leap of faith, jump in, and keep on doing it. It can be a conversation with someone from a different department during lunch or sending an email to someone whose work you appreciate. Make an effort to do it every single day. By building your network on a daily basis, it becomes second nature. Before you know it, it will come to you naturally without you realising it. Practice truly makes perfect in this case.
Master the Art of Conversations
This is where your one on one conversation skills come into play. You have to be able to engage in meaningful conversations. Pay attention and listen to the other person, maintain eye contact and smile. It will be easier if you are doing it on a regular basis as mentioned earlier. One way to be conversationalist is to adopt a “let’s talk about you” mentality. Everybody loves to talk about themselves and their ideas. Give them a chance to talk and just listen. Let the other person talk and keep them talking by asking questions. You can always share your own ideas after you have secured that contact and do a follow-up session in the future.
Do Your Homework
Understand who you are networking with. Are they young, savvy professionals or are they senior, conservative executives? If you are attending an event within a specific industry make sure to understand some of the current relevant topics within that industry. It’s details like these that can help you keep conversations active and interesting. The building blocks to developing meaningful networks. Prepare at least 3 topics that you can discuss. If you are talking to a well-known individual, know their history, past projects and achievements. You can stand out from the rest if you show up prepared, and you’ll leave a lasting impression.
Cultivate and Strengthen Your Contacts
You have reached out and made contact with people. What’s next? Continue to build on these ties of course! Create a systematic approach to connect. Make a habit of scheduling coffee dates or lunch with your contacts. It can be as short as a 15-minute session, which can be squeezed into anyone’s busy schedule. What matters is you show up and cement your relationship with your contact. After your catch up, follow up with a simple thank you text or email.
Burn Useless Bridges
A bit harsh but you know what I mean. When you’ve reached a point where you have too many contacts to maintain meaningful relationships with them all, review your network and let go of some. During your career, you are unfortunately bound to come across people who take without giving back. It is easy to identify these individuals and it is important to recognise how their lack of reciprocation affects your view of them - this will help you avoid making similar mistakes to those who rely on you.
Finally, networking is an invaluable skill whether you are a professional or an entrepreneur. Once you get the hang of it, you will be glad that you have a reliable network of connections to fall back on in times of need.