The ability to network is not an innate, God-given quality. It is simply the process of developing mutually gratifying/advantageous relationships with like-minded people and businesses and, more importantly, can be learned, honed and developed. Networking is a marketing tool; crucial to the success of you and your business that can take a variety of different forms. From face-to-face business conferences, to less formal coffee or after-work drinks meetings, there are also a wide variety of online and social networking methods including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Blogs. Whether you are at the beginning of your career or a business veteran embarking down a new road, here are a few do’s and don’ts about networking to help you succeed.
Benefits of Networking:
Networking has the ability to open many windows and doors to anyone at any stage of their career. Meeting and talking to the right people can earn you free advice, awareness of you and your company, word-of-mouth referrals and if done correctly, networking has the potential to gain you credibility, trust, professionalism, knowledge and expertise.
Here’s a list of best and worst ways of doing networking:
- Put your best foot forward – There is no benefit sitting in the corner by yourself. Don’t be afraid to say hello to people around you. The chances are they are just as nervous as you.
- “Elevator Pitch” – Be quick, concise and accurate when describing your business. Ensure you engage your listener from the get-go and make it memorable.
- Business cards – Make sure you have more than enough with you as they are a great way to exchange details, as well as allowing you a way of reconnecting the following day. One great little tip is to jot on the back of your card the time and place you met, so your new business contact remembers.
- Follow up – Whats the use of meeting people if you don’t follow up afterwards?
- Listen and learn – This is a valuable lesson in life and not just business. Take time to learn from others’ experiences.
- Quid-pro-quo – You cannot expect to get something without offering anything in return. Offer free help, favors, advice or reduced cost services.
- Patience is a virtue – Networking is developing strong, long-standing business relationships. Don’t expect to reap the rewards immediately. Good things come to those who wait.
- Prepare questions – Anticipate the kind of people you are likely to meet and think about what you would like to ask them, what you would like to learn from them.
- Don’t be timid – and only talk to people you already know. Networking isn’t just for the flamboyant big-shots or charismatic colleagues.
- Don’t only speak to one person – The more the better.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions – Everyone is scared of appearing ignorant or stupid but there’s no need. The vast majority of people will relish the opportunity to peacock their knowledge and expertise, so make sure you ask as many questions as you can.
- Avoid overzealous self-promotion – this tactic is more likely to annoy than build valuable relationships
- Don’t forget to follow up – this is so important, we’re saying it twice.
- Don’t get drunk – Especially at the more informal meet-ups, there is the chance they will be serving alcohol. Even though a little Dutch courage can help the confidence, appearing intoxicated is the worst thing you could possibly do.
What about social networking?
Social media is also a hugely valuable networking resource. It provides avenues through which to reach out to people you might never meet in person and it also allows you to interact with them on a daily basis. There are, however, a few simple rules you should adhere too for networking success.
- Where are they? – There are many different social media channels, so if you want to build a relationship with someone, you need to establish their preferred communication channel and go to them.
- Less is more – There may be more communication channels than ever before but you have less time in which to grab people’s attention. Brevity is key. Twitter is ideal platform to make this initial connection.
- Don’t expect a response – Open doors without adding pressure.
- What does your profile says about you? – Remember you will be judged by you social media profiles. This is the information that people will form their opinion of you on so ensure your profile is up-to-date, correct and complimentary.
Flora Lowther is a writer for Adzuna.co.uk, a search engine for classified ads which makes it easier for users to find the right job locally.