No doubt throughout your career you will be invited to many networking events, you’ll be offered membership to networking groups, and most likely be asked to join a networking database “at a very reasonable cost”. Each of these door-opening activities has merits, but I’m here to tell you it’s not just a numbers game – it’s all about the strength of the relationships you form. Here are some tips so you get the most out of your networking.
1. It’s not ‘who you know’ it’s how well you know them.
I’m one of the few who are happy to openly share my contacts (with their approval). I do this not only because it’s a nice thing to do, but I recognise that while someone may take a name from you, they cannot take the relationship.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you’re a successful networker because your LinkedIn profile reads 500+ connections or your database is four-plus digits long – the value in contacts is trust, will they do you a favour because they know you, because they trust you? Make the effort to have deeper relationships, as opposed to a long list of names filled with people you can’t place.
2. Don’t just ask for favours.
Give people information and opportunities that don’t necessarily benefit you.
This will help you develop a good rapport and continue to build the relationship – meaning when you do need a favour he/she will be more willing to lend a hand.
Not to mention, again, it’s just a nice thing to do.
3. Get outside of your industry events
A mistake a lot of people make is networking with their own kind.
Get out and go to something outside of your industry, you’ll not only meet a whole new bunch of people, but you’ll probably be the only person in your industry working the room.
4. Go it alone (to events)
Yes, it can be awkward walking into an event by yourself, and even the most confident of us can struggle with jumping into a group conversation with a whole bunch of people we don’t know – however if you go with people you know you’ll use that familiarity as a crutch and not put yourself out there as much, meaning you’re not going to meet as many people.
So get awkward and get connecting.
Volunteering for a good cause means you’re not only do you feel great doing something good for the world, you can create deep and meaningful relationships working with people from all walks of life – and trust me, when you’re trying to organise an event for hundreds of people on a shoestring budget outside of work hours, you develop resilient relationships fast.
(Not to mention you’re up-skilling in the process).
6. There is such a thing as LinkedIn etiquette – practice it
When you connect with someone you’ve recently met on LinkedIn start a conversation with them, that is, don’t just ‘connect’ and ignore.
Provide your connections with useful information, like groups you’ve joined or interesting people you think they might like to follow. Say something useful. Post interesting and useful content (and not just your own).
Comment on their posts and ‘like’ their job promotions and so on.
Most importantly, where you can, and meet with them outside of the digital world (i.e. in the real one).
7. Don’t pitch yourself as a product
Many people may disagree with me on this one, saying have an elevator pitch for yourself, but I passionately believe you should not enter a room and give the same 30 second finessed spiel you’ve given hundreds of times. You know why I think this, it’s because you don’t sound genuine when you pitch yourself (as opposed to a product), and people (especially Australians) don’t appreciate that.
Ask about someone else’s life first, talk about things other than business (in some cultures this is custom), and if the opportunity presents itself, tell them a bit about what you do, and generally assume they know absolutely nothing about your industry so explain it as though you’re explaining it to your nan.
But say it differently, honestly, and personably every. single. time.