Networking is of enormous benefit, whether you are looking for a job, wish to develop your profile within your organisation, or are looking to expand and market your business. Today, not all positions are advertised openly or even posted online. A large percentage of business is done through referrals and word-of-mouth recommendation. By meeting and handing out your business cards to prospective employers, clients, business contacts and other professionals, you have a chance of attracting more interest and business opportunities than if you simply advertised through newspapers, magazines and social media sites. Moreover, through developing business relationships and even friendships, you can glean useful advice and suggestions on how to grow in your own line of work. You might also get a chance to reciprocate the favour. As a result, you will improve your own sense of confidence, self-worth and business communication skills.
However, many professionals are unsure about networking due to some common misconceptions. One of these is the belief that they need to be extroverts and confident conversationalists. Not so. You do need the confidence to walk up to a stranger and introduce yourself but you do not have to try very hard to sell yourself. You will do equally well if you are simply a good listener. Remember everyone at a networking event is there for the same purpose. They also want to meet and make new contacts. So, don’t be a wall flower.
Here are 10 useful tips for successful networking:
- Networking isn’t always about knowing the most people; it’s about knowing the right people. Choose your events anddecide who you want to meet and establish a connection with.
- Start with those you already know. There may be many among your existing contacts in a position to help you if you cultivate closer bonds with them.
- Create an elevator speech. You should be able to talk about yourself in a few short sentences which should arouse the listener’s curiosity to find out more about you and your work.
- Never forget to take your business cards. And when you receive others, make brief notes on them to help you remember important details of contacts that matter.
- Talk first, offer your business card later. At a networking event, first meet, greet and chat with the person. Get to know them a little and then offer them your card. Nothing is more insincere than jumping from person to person and simply shoving your card at them. In fact, ask for their card first.
- Get to know your contacts. Avoid talking only about business. Instead of just a “what do you do?” ask them about their lives as well. Establish some common ground to build rapport. People tend to remember those they connect with more at a personal level.
- Don’t be a user. If you think networking is all about self-promotion, think again. Find out how you can be of use to others. Moreover, it is easier to request favours from those who you have helped. It could be as simple as providing an introduction.
- Be patient and persistent. Building contacts takes time. Don’t be over-sensitive and take personally if someone does not come back to you. A simple reminder may be all that is needed, so get back in touch.
- Be genuine. Be sincere in your wish to connect with people. Don’t oversell yourself or make false promises you cannot keep. Honesty and integrity are valuable characteristics for building long-term relationships.
- Follow-up. Follow up an initial meeting with an email or a phone call. Many contacts assumed dormant can be revived simply by reconnecting.
If you are ambitious and serious about developing professionally, your skills at networking can make the difference between boom and bust.