Networking: What it’s really about.
Building relationships is key to success in the workplace. Along with death and taxes, it’s one of the certainties of life. So, why are so many of us still so reluctant to embrace the power and benefits that networking has to offer?
Often, we have our own perception of what we think networking is, to blame for this reluctance and fear. The word ‘networking’ has become synonymous with that person who walks around shoving their business card into the hands of anyone polite enough to take it. In reality, networking isn’t about making a sale, getting contact details, or pitching your ideas – networking is about people, conversations, and relationships.
Networking is more about what you can give than what you can get. When we approach networking from a point of what we can get from those we interact with, we lose the authentic and genuine touch needed to build the strong mutually beneficial relationships that are supposed to be the outcome of networking. You are a unique individual with a unique story, and you have something special to offer to those around you. When you think of your networking opportunities as moments where you can ask questions, listen, and lend a helping hand, making connections will become that much easier.
It is important to understand that networking does not stop when the event ends and the food has been cleared away. When it comes to networking, we are essentially playing the long game, as the level of support that a networking relationship has to offer requires more than just an initial introduction. As such, it is important to look after the network that you are building by investing time and energy in furthering the relationships that form part of it. Communicating regularly, introducing others in your network to possible connections that can offer assistance, and being ready to offer help when needed is a great way to do just that.
Quick tips to make networking easier:
Keeping in mind that we will all be faced with opportunities to further our connections and build meaningful relationships, here are a few quick tips, from the first interaction to nurturing your relationships, that will make networking a little less daunting:
- At an event, position yourself close to a conversation starter. This could be the food table, an interesting painting, the window with a great view, or anything that can help you break the ice. This will also help you to get to know the other person on a more personal level as well.
- Don’t be on your phone. We tend to hide behind what makes us feel most comfortable in an uncomfortable situation. Networking is generally a very uncomfortable situation. Yes, checking your phone is less scary than walking up to someone new and starting a conversation. However, checking your Facebook is not going to benefit you in this situation.
- Always carry a pen or note-taking equivalent. You should be making notes in order to follow up afterwards. Whether you received a physical business card, scanned a QR code, or entered their details on your phone, making a note about who they are, where you met them, and how you can help, will make the follow-up process more personal and strengthen your connection.
- Make it personal. Remembering small details about your connections and recalling these during later conversations will go a long way to making the other person feel valued and appreciated.
- Don’t break confidence. Networking requires relationships and relationships require trust. Always keep sensitive information that has been shared in confidence to yourself.
In the end, building relationships is not about simply knowing more people but knowing people more. So, the next time you find yourself in a networking situation, remember to think about what you can give, not what you can get. Share something valuable, whether it be a bit of interesting information, advice about something you are passionate about, or simply the way you make others feel just by listening to them. Networking is an investment and a long-term one at that. So, be prepared to put in the work to reap the many rewards that networking has to offer.