In today’s culture, we’ve been brainwashed to believe that networking is negative, a selfish or self-promoting behavior that is shameful and anti-social. However, real networking is a very old human behavior with a new name attached, and all truly effective, successful men practice it. This article outlines what it actually is, and why it’s vital to your progress, in business and in life. Successful networking practices enhance your opportunities in the work place, by helping you make connections and deepening your business relationships with clients.
It is ultimately about establishing your reputation as the best choice for the next deal, project or promotion. The big truth about networking that has been obscured by the trend towards self-effacement and overly modest presentation is that it isn’t actually about you at all. This article will explain the finer points of good networking practices and how you can refine your own skills. So, sharpen your social networking tools and be ready to forge ahead.
1. Refocusing Priorities
If networking isn’t all about waving your own banner, then what is it about? It’s all about using the skill set you’ve worked to build in order to help others. Networking involves a mindset poised somewhere between altruism and enlightened self-interest, because when you set out to do it, you’re seeking ways to help others, not promote yourself. It’s important for you to set aside your goals and listen to what others need. Your reputation will be established then not as the guy who is always looking for help, but the man who is always ready to assist others.
Readjusting your focus from self-oriented to oriented on the needs of whomever you are speaking will help establish you as a person of integrity and attentiveness—both really positive qualities that others will remember when a project comes across their desk for which you would be perfect.
2. Patience is an Asset
While it would be gratifying to immediately see the results of your first meetings with others, and for them to instantly reciprocate, that’s actually contrary to the true spirit of networking. In order to successfully advertise your reputation, you need to establish it first. This takes patience, attention, and a dedication to that spirit—otherwise it’s just an act and others will see you as fake. The last thing you want is to establish yourself as a shallow fly-by-night who’s putting on an act to make an easy score.
How can you hone your networking skills? It’s actually remarkably simple, and will reward you with positive feelings of being effective, helpful, and skilled. That’s the big bonus. You’ll be using your professional and personal skills to their utmost to solve problems and ease the difficulties of others.
3. Always Be a Help
Your skills are unique to you. Sure, there are plenty of other people who fill similar positions in your industry, but none of them are you. They don’t have the same experiences and life connections that will make you the perfect person to help others. When you encounter someone, listen to his or her needs and think about how your skills can fill those needs. Active listening is a huge part of creating a deep and lasting human connection. This is the essence of networking, and its importance cannot be overemphasized.
4. Nothing is Insignificant
Samuel T. Coleridge’s philosophy can be extended to people. When you make connections, however casual, do not disregard anyone as being unimportant. Every contact you make is important, because you never know who will be behind the next big contract or project that will advance your path. If you miss a crucial connection, you just might miss making it to the big leagues. It would be a pity to cripple your future because you dismissed someone as unimportant, wouldn’t it?
5. Intention and Intentionality
While a number of the most important connections you’ll make will be largely a matter of taking advantage of a sudden opportunity to do someone a good turn, you’ll want to grow your network of contacts on purpose, too. That’s the core concept of networking—the widening spiral of acquaintance and connection.
You’re at the center of your own group, but the more you move through the world, the more likely it is that you’ll become an important node or touchstone of connection in the networks of others. That’s what connects you to more people than you’ve ever directly met—other people’s perception of you. Make it your goal to make contact with one new person each day. Here are a few pointers to make that easier, for you and them.
6. First Contact
• Be succinct. Don’t jump right in; instead offer them the chance to set up another meeting if now is not a good time.
• Keep e-mails short.
• Ask permission first. If time is limited and you must make the contact immediately, begin by offering your particular skill that would be useful for them, and then ask if they would like to hear more.
7. Building the Interaction
• Build your value to contacts as much as possible.
• Be friendly and helpful beyond business—recommend books, enjoyable pursuits, etc.
• Introduce people who can help each other—be an active helper.
• Nurture your existing connections. Don’t focus solely on new contacts.
• Follow up a few days after the first meeting with a note or e-mail on a relevant point for your new contact. You can tie it back to your conversation of make it something new.
8. Be Persistent
If you don’t succeed on your first try, don’t be discouraged, and don’t take “no” personally. If you didn’t get the results you wanted, or if they haven’t responded after a few weeks, take a different approach and try again. Spend your time wisely, by volunteering for events or committees that will have interesting people involved. Keep it simple and don’t give up.