Effective Networking

Attitudes towards networking

If you are thinking… … consider the following…

I’m not motivated! Ask yourself: What is in it for you? If you want a new job and nothing is moving, then sitting on the couch is not going to help you. Think about all the benefits you can get out of networking.
It’s no fun! Have a look for networking activities that are fun. For example, join groups on Meetup.com genuinely interest you and may still give you an opportunity to do networking.
I will be stuck in a boring conversation with someone I do not like! Think about ways to get out of those unwanted conversations before you attend the networking event.
Networking is manipulative! Networking is about “building reciprocal relationships”. Emphasis is on “reciprocal”. If you feel manipulated by someone, just move on.

Benefits of networking

  • Networking will help you to build up skills that are going to be useful in the long run: meeting new people, dealing with rejection, communicating clearly, presenting yourself in a positive light, asking others for a favour, doing others a favour without expecting something in return. Don’t underestimate the skills you gain while networking!
  • Referral building and networking are very effective marketing strategies!
  • Steven D’Souza’s book says: “More than 60% of people get their jobs informally through who they know” – lots of jobs are never advertised (p. 166, Brilliant Networking)
  • Networking lets other people know about the opportunities you are after: that makes it more likely that these opportunities will find you!

Tips and Tricks – Before the networking event

There are many ways to network and you need to find out what works for you: While some people feel very inspired by social media like Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing and Twitter, others just hate it. Similarly, if you don’t enjoy networking events, join a group that evokes your interest (maybe hiking?) and also gives you an opportunity to network. Find your own style. Your own way will be the most effective way!

Don’t go to every single networking event, just because it’s a networking event. Find the events that are most relevant for you and that you get most out of – you will avoid exhaustion and keep your motivation going.

Do some research before the event where you intend to do networking:

  • Who is coming to the event?
  • Who do you want to talk to?
  • What can you say to introduce yourself?
  • What opportunities might there be for you?
  • Do you have something in common with someone you want to approach?

Instead of just “networking” (what does that mean anyway?), set yourself a networking goal to keep you focused, e.g. “Get feedback on my elevator pitch from at least two people” or “Introduce myself to three people and find something I might be able to help them with”.

First impressions matter. On the day, ensure you feel good, look appropriate and feel comfortable.

Tips and Tricks – During the event

Go solo: While it’s a good idea to go to these event together with a friend (you’ll be more motivated), you should agree to split up as soon as you get there. If you feel they might be offended by your suggestion, prepare them beforehand. You’ll get so much more out of the event if you go solo.

Be yourself: Don’t pretend to be anyone else but who you are. If you are suffering from low self-confidence, do some confidence-boosting exercises regularly (I’ll add some suggestions to my website http://www.inspiringperspectives.com soon).

It’s not about you! The “me, me, me” person who only talks about themselves is “out”. Listening is “in”.  Be curious! A study showed that people who listened and were interested in others were perceived to be more interesting than the people who only talked about themselves (refer to “Brilliant Networking” by Steven D’Souza, p. 143)

Take the initiative… others are also nervous! Introduce yourself with a smile! Say something neutral or positive. Here are some suggestion for starting a conversation. For further suggestions refer to the “Art of Conversation” chapter in Steven’s book “Brilliant Networking”.

  • “Hi, I’m John. Nice to meet you! I’m new to this event… do you know anyone?”
  • “This is a nice place, isn’t it?… Have you been here before?”
  • “Did you have to travel far to get here?”
  • “How did you hear about this event?”

Take a business card (www.vistaprint.com has great offers if you sign up), but don’t give it out randomly to everyone.

What you don’t want is to be stuck with the same person all night long. Therefore, prepare yourself for how to end a conversation: For example, introduce them to someone else, or find an appropriate reason to leave. Some tricks can be found in Brilliant Networking, pp. 148.

Most people will be glad to help you if you are willing to help them. Therefore, be generous and share your information or contacts. Ask yourself: “Who do I know who could help this person?” Once you have helped someone, you are in a good place to ask a favour of them. If they never return the favour, they obviously don’t know enough about networking… in which case you should recommend Steven’s book to them and just move on 😉

„Don’t assume that just because one person isn’t a potential client or employer for you, that the relationship has no value.” Every person you’ve ever wanted to meet (including heads of state and celebrities) is only six people away from you. At networking meetings you will find people who know other people, who know even more people, who might be great clients or employers for you. But to get to know them, make some connections first!” (see http://veronikanoize.com/networking_tips)

Tips and Tricks – After the event

Make some notes about the people you spoke to on the back of their business card (e.g. what do they need, anything personal/ special about them etc.).

Don’t only contact people when you need them. Instead, follow up with people you have met and liked! Some ideas:

  • Send them some something that may be of genuine interest to them
  • Connect them with someone else who may be able to help them/ could do business with them
  • Send an email for their birthday
  • Send them a link to your blog if you believe that it’s useful for them

Better follow up late than never!

To avoid networking fatigue, reflect on how much you got out of your networking activities. If you didn’t like a networking event, look for one that is more enjoyable to you. Remember, this is supposed to be fun!

Learn to deal with rejection (pp. 157 in Brilliant Networking):

  • If you email someone and they don’t reply, do email them again. But don’t annoy them.
  • Reflect on adjusting your strategy. Are you genuinely helping another person or are you trying to get them to buy from you?
  • If you are scared of rejection, come up with a game: e.g. Let’s see whether I can get rejected 10 times this month!

Further information8)

Brilliant Networking -2008 – by Steven D’Souza: Contains great exercises for building your self-confidence and for setting goals. You can find useful tips and tricks about the networking mindset, building your network (on- and offline), soft-skill in networking, and managing your network. Included is also a big appendix with useful links.

www.brilliantnetworking.net: Useful resources, links and information about Steven.

www.inspiringperspectives.com: I’ll be adding tips and tricks (on Networking, How to build your self-confidence etc. Tips on How to deal with recruitment consultants are up already)

http://www.veronikanoize.com/teleclasses: Veronika Noize, the marketing coach, offers free teleclasses and loads of free information (e.g. how to create a great elevator speech). I can particularly recommend the teleclass “Zero to Full Practice in 6 Weeks: How I Got 29 Clients in 42 Days“, where Veronika talks about how she successfully build up her business through networking. Very inspiring!

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