You are your most precious commodity. No matter what your dreams are, the key to getting there is selling who you are to others. When you leave a lasting impression on people, they’ll be more inclined to help you. That’s why networking is so important.
Networking refers to any social interaction where people share their interests. This is done in order to build up contacts who may be able to advance your career or give you a higher social standing. It has become the backbone of a consumer driven society. Success depends on all the people you know in the industry you desire to be a part of.
This may seem a little bit daunting. There always seems to be too many obstacles in the way.
- Are you too shy?
- Do you know enough people?
- Where do you even find networking events?
- How do you know your networking is even successful?
These are the sort of questions that rattle around your head and make networking feel like an insurmountable task. Here’s the secret: Anyone can do it and it’s really easy. All it takes is a bit of work and patience.
If you’re not feeling too confident yet, hopefully these seven tips will help you become a pro networker. Before long you’ll have more contacts than you know what to do with.
Remember that you have something to offer
The first step before you start networking is to acknowledge that you have something to offer. You don’t have to be a prodigy to be a worthwhile addition to a company. Even if you’re simply hard working or loyal, these are traits that businesses are looking for.
Many people already set themselves up to fail because they believe that no-one wants to employ them. This is never true. The top five traits any business is looking for are:
- Work ethic
None of these traits require any talent or further education. They’re simple skills you can improve that will make you more of an asset than a genius who’s difficult to work with.
Self doubt can be your downfall so it’s important to realize that nobody is worthless.
Focus on your strengths
Spend time making a list of all your strengths. Set aside an hour at least to focus on what you excel at. Even if it’s simply that you’re kind to animals, write it down. Not only will this boost your confidence but it will give you a clear indication of what you should focus on when networking.
Acknowledge your weaknesses
Nobody is perfect. Acknowledging that you have weaknesses is a sign of maturity and will also guide you in what you should steer clear of when networking.
Once you understand yourself, you’ll be able to find your niche when it comes to networking. Self knowledge is necessary when you’re working towards success.
Treat people like people
Networking is not only about you. Yes, you want to sell yourself to people in the job market you desire, but you also want them to remember you. If you come in simply parading all of your strengths and don’t let them get a word in edgewise then the only part they’ll recall is that you’re boastful or egotistical.
Instead, show that you acknowledge them. Appreciation and acknowledgment add value to interpersonal relationships, no matter how brief they may be. If you show that you’re interested it won’t seem like you’re simply trying to gain something from them.
Here are two simple ways that you can show acknowledgment:
- Listen: When having a conversation don’t simply wait until it’s your turn to speak and only turn on the focus then. Show that you care and that you’re paying attention. You can do this by asking questions about what they’re speaking about or repeating phrases to show you’ve understood them.
- Remember details: Nothing makes people feel more valued than when others remember their birthday. This shows that you care, even if you only send them a small message. If someone shares information with you about themselves, keep it in a journal and use it to show interest. They’ll appreciate your effort later on.
Never discount anyone. Even the janitor’s sister might be in the industry you’re hoping to get into. Always be kind and show you care about the people you’re engaging with.
No opportunity is too small
Places where you can network:
- A restaurant
- Your child’s school
- A brunch with friends
- Actual networking events
Any place where there are people is an opportunity for you to network. This doesn’t mean you should be blatant. Subtly slipping information about yourself into everyday conversations could lead to astounding new discoveries. Sometimes the people you’re looking for are in your closest circles.
You should also attend all events where you could have a chance to network:
- If you want to be an author, speak to people at book launches.
- Dream of being a CEO? Attend seminars.
Every field will have chances for you to become involved. The more you go out, the more likely you are to succeed.
Simply being there isn’t enough either. Volunteer to participate or help out. When you do, commit. The right people will notice your dedication in the long run.
The power of social media
Don’t discount social media. Whereas before global networking was almost impossible, today the entire world is at your fingertips. You have the opportunity to find people around the planet who are in your field and can help you. Social media is also a fantastic way to make yourself known. Using the internet for networking is guaranteed to bring success if you’re dedicated.
The following platforms are very effective when it comes to networking:
In 2018 it was recorded that there are 2 billion people using Facebook on a regular basis. This means the chance that someone is looking for what you have to offer is phenomenally high. All it takes is a bit of work to get yourself noticed.
Although Instagram is not as popular as Facebook yet, hashtags are a useful means of finding people who are interested in the same topics as you. Regular posts about your qualities in the field you’re interested in could eventually capture the right attention.
If you’re serious about networking, you should have a LinkedIn profile. It’s an entire social media platform built around finding other professionals in your field. You can easily:
Communicate with other professionals
Find contacts in your field
Share your CV to a wide audience
LinkedIn is literally made for networking. All you need to do is set up your profile.
Do your research
No matter how much you know about your chosen field, it will constantly be changing. New discoveries are made on a daily basis. This is why it’s your job to stay up to date with trends and current research. If you’re still spouting information that was popular decades ago, nobody will see you as a potential asset to your desired career.
Research doesn’t only apply to top popular trends either. Before any networking event, you should know more about:
- The people who will be there: This will help you narrow down who you should be speaking to. It will also make it easier to have a more heartfelt conversation than a sales pitch about yourself.
- The topic: If you understand the specific topic it will give a you a starting point speaking to someone. You’ll also know what you’re talking about so you’re more likely to leave a lasting impression.
Research never ends but the more you know, the more likely you’ll earn respect.
Practice makes perfect
Failure is inevitable. Not every networking opportunity is going to be successful. Don’t let this discourage you. Consider failed attempts as practice. The more you practice the better you’ll become. Before you know it, networking will become second nature to you and you’ll start to see more results.
It all depends on persistence. As long as you never give up, you’ll succeed. All you have to do is stay confident. This can be daunting for people who are shy around strangers but even then, there are a few tips you can try to improve your self confidence, such as:
- Practice your small talk. This will make it easier to start conversations as well as give you the basis to move onto deeper topics.
- Be positive. Even when you feel like you messed up always tell yourself that next time will be better. Optimism is noticeable and potential employers will see it.
- Make yourself look good. You don’t have to look like a model, but keeping yourself well groomed will make you feel better and will impress potential allies.
If you’re still uncertain, there are a few more tricks you can try to make yourself feel more confident. At the very least, fake it till you make it. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be yourself. Always be true to what you want and what you’re interested in. Simply, pretend you’re confident until you actually are.
Timing is everything
Always be prepared to network. Have business cards ready for any opportunity that may arise. This doesn’t mean that you should be networking in every conversation.
If you’re speaking to someone who recently lost a loved one, they won’t be interested in anything you have to say. Even if they’re joyful but busy with another conversation, they’ll see you as rude and disruptive. Never make people feel like you’re only trying to gain something from them.
Instead, wait for the right moment. If you train yourself to spot key opportunities, you’ll have a lot more success. People will be more willing to help you.
Networking is useful when:
- Someone asks what you do for a living
- Your skills come up in conversation
- You receive a request on LinkedIn
- You can easily introduce yourself into the conversation
- They ask for your business card
- Someone else suggests they’re looking for staff
- The person you really want to speak to comes up as a topic
There are many other ideal times to network. The more you practice the better you’ll be at recognizing the best opportunities. Other useful techniques you can use is to prepare an elevator speech or come up with a game plan. If you’re prepared, you’ll have a better chance of slipping information about yourself into a conversation without seeming pushy.
Bonus tip: manners
Always remember to be on your best behavior. Many of these tips come down to manners and etiquette. If you’re polite, people are more likely to remember you. When you’re not polite, they’ll remember you for the wrong reasons. Make sure you do the following:
- Greet people appropriately
- Ask them how they’re doing
- Thank them for their assistance
- Follow up on what you talked about
- Give them assistance in the future if they need it
As Lady Gaga repeatedly said, all you need is one person to believe in you. You never know who that one person will be, so keep everyone’s contact details. One day one of those people might lead to your lucky break.
Networking is necessary if you want to climb your career ladder. You are the people that you know. When you know the right people, you’ll start seeing leaps in your success. It takes a lot of hard work and an immense deal of persistence, but the more you do it the easier it will become.
Nobody is too shy too network. With the variety of social media platforms available, you can even hide behind a screen until you’re ready to meet people face to face. If you’re worried you don’t know enough people, you’ll meet more as you go along.
Opportunity is everywhere and only over time will you see that your networking is a triumph. But you must keep doing it and never give up.