Tips for becoming a master networker
The whole process of professional development can be quite complex and intimidating. For introverts and newbies without professional connections, it can feel downright unfair.
But, as the old saying goes, “it’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” Networking can be your key to success – granting you access to a host of opportunities with jobs, investors and even customers. And, thanks to a host of advances in technology, the playing field has been levelled. Anyone can build connections and grow their network, so long as they invest enough time and resources in the right strategies.
There is no recipe that will guarantee you success in developing your network. You are far more likely to want to give up because of all your failures throughout the process. But as long as you keep the right attitude and expectations, you are certain to learn something (about both yourself and others).
I’ve put together some tips to help you become a master networker. These are some of my favourite tidbits of advice I have picked up over the years, and they’ve greatly changed the way I go about meeting new people.
Before I dive into any tactical strategies, I have to say this: there is a virus going around the professional world today, and it is rooted in fake and superficial behaviour. Everyone is putting on a facade, trying to be the person they think other people will like.
What they do not realise is that what everyone really wants to see, whether they are on LinkedIn or at a conference, is real people. Human beings enjoy talking to other human beings, not spammy advertisements or built-up personas. We want real, living people.
Be direct and honest
On the same note, a lot of people seem to believe that to be a good networker, you have to impress everyone else in the room. While you do want to be memorable, lying to get there is not the best strategy. It is generally easy to spot a liar.
And even if people do not catch you at first, sooner or later some smart persons will expose your falsehoods to the rest of your network, forever tarnishing your brand and reputation. It can be absolutely devastating.
Often, professionals make networking seem transactional. The reality, however, is that building your network is about interacting with other humans. It is relationship based, not a sales product. You are not trying to sell these people anything (especially not the first time you meet them). Remember that you want these people to like you, not buy a car from you.
Meet in person
Establishing connections via email is one thing, but actually getting together face to face takes the relationship to a different level. Take advantage of networking meetups or events to get to know people. These offer opportunities to quickly grow the number of deep connections you have in a short amount of time simply by sitting down for coffee with new people.
Show up early
If you are attending a networking event, spend the extra five minutes and get there early. This does two things. First, it shows that you care. People who are prompt demonstrate that they are prioritising whatever it is they are showing up to. Second, it indicates that you are organised. No one wants to do business with someone who is sloppy – prompt people have their schedules under control.
Provide value for free
Once you’ve ditched the cheesy sales pitch, realise that everyone online and at these events is selfishly looking for things that further their own careers and companies. And there is nothing that these people want more than free resources! So start providing others with value, for free.
It does not have to be anything massive, and might be simply a strategic recommendation or tidbit of advice. Investing just five minutes of your time to help someone else could pay dividends in the long term.
After meeting someone (either in person or on the phone), jot down a few notes. Try to remember small details that the other person shared with you. Remembering simple things like what they like to eat or where they like to travel can become important bits to use in later interactions.
Another great way to show that you care about the people you meet is to send a simple follow-up email. Using any notes or pieces of information that you remember, write an email that includes your appreciation for what they had to say and perhaps ask a follow-up question.
Have specific questions
People cannot help you if you don’t really know what you want. These are the worst type of networkers – the people who only ask general questions without much substance. Come with a specific, concise question and you’ll find people are 10 times more likely to help you out.
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