As you may know I am completing my Masters of Business Administration which has kept me quite busy in the past few days. I love to write my blog posts and assisting all of you with Business tips, Leadership skills, Communication techniques, Marketing methods, Relationship building, Understanding human behavior and just on miscellaneous topics that I find relevant. However, my time management has been very poor lately. I have been managing both work, studies and home. Being said all that, I found some time to speak about networking! Due to the nature of my work I have been having to do a lot of networking lately and let me tell you whether you are a successful business owner or just starting your first job, networking is crucial!
Don’t be Shy!
Listen, I understand! I was that shy person! I had a negative perspective towards networking from the get-go. Going up to a stranger was quite intimidating for me. I felt like I was asking for a favor or being manipulative. Getting that favor would also mean that someone else helped me in achieving something hence I am not worth it. But remember that saying, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know—well its true! Soon after, I had to change that perspective because networking lands you opportunities.
Change your Perspective
It’s not that you are being an opportunist or you are strategizing your way up, but you are connecting with people who have different experiences in the field and from whom you can learn from. These people have already been there and done that and that’s an advantage because you can learn from their mistakes and apply the path they used.
Yes, it’s quite intimidating at first! However, if you read my earlier blogs then you know I always preach about practice and patience! Practice makes perfect. If you are shy then you have to start by practicing. Work on your networking techniques before applying it on strangers. But where do you start from? At home and friends!
Go out meet new people through your friends. Connect with old family members to whom you lost touch and don’t really speak with. Always know this number one rule, don’t jump the gun and ask for a favor. You have to be mindful of the conversation. You have to build a rapport. Networking is about relationship building. Strike up a conversation about random things and keep practicing it with different people. Let them know what you have been up to. Listen to their stories, become a good listener. If you are shy that’s your number one magic is the power of listening.
Make it personable
Remember you are trying to build a relationship therefore you have to make it personable. You have to make them feel comfortable. One way to make a person feel comfortable is by addressing the person by their name. Another simple way is by smiling. You become more friendly and approachable if you have your happy face on.
While networking you have to always think ‘people’ and not the position. You have to find out a way to help them. You have to show your generosity so that person remembers you as kind. Always think about how you can help that person.
Yes, it’s a preparation game. Some people are great at being spontaneous and networking but most us are not. Therefore you need to have your business card read. Also, important, have a 3 sentence elevator pitch ready! You have to also be ready for rejection, not everyone is open to networking and are friendly. After you have practiced a bit, you would want to eliminate and find your critical few. Critical few are the 20 or less contact that you would like to associate with to learn more. This is an elimination process you have to create by researching on who knows who (Linkedin). You have to create your visibility, show them you are credible by helping them.
As I said, Networking is a relationship building process. You have to always follow up and take them out for coffee. You have to determine where you are in the relationship to ask to be introduced with that connection they are associated with, position or recommendation letter.