We all know that networking is the single, most powerful tool to achieve success in today’s day and age. We also know that most of us don’t do enough of it.
For the skeptics who don’t see what’s the big deal about it, let’s first look at why the fuss:
- Networking helps in making connections and building mutually beneficial relationships with others
- It expands your sphere of influence, be it for career development or job search
- Through networking, you are generating an interest in the other person’s mind, and in turn, they shall be willing to share information or advice useful to you
Still not convinced?
- Approximately 66% of job vacancies are never advertised and are obtained instead through personal and professional references!
OK, now that we got your attention, let’s try to understand what may be holding us back?
- We don’t know where or whom to start with.
- We feel if we speak with someone new they may not be interested in who we are or what we have to say
- We have had some bad or perhaps even embarrassing experiences in the past that are preventing us from venturing out
- We feel networking is a skill that comes naturally to extroverts and thus, not everyone’s cup of tea.
For each one of us, the answer could be a combination of the above options or in fact all of them.
Here’s the good news or as they say the silver lining….
Networking like swimming or driving is a skill that can be learned. Of course, some of us will learn faster while others will take a bit longer. So yes, despite all the efforts some people will be better at it than others. Either way, through a little bit of effort and much practice, you too can begin your journey to meet new/interesting people and build your network.
So here are your 5 Steps to Becoming a Champion Networker…….
Step 1: Personal Grooming & Prep Work
You don’t need to wear designer clothes or accessories to impress others. However, you must dress well and look your best for the occasion. Choose your look according to the event you are attending, whether it’s smart casual, semi-formal or black tie. Make sure you are well-groomed and smell good. Avoid rushing and give yourself plenty to time to get ready.
Note to self: Always remember, for others to like you, you must first love yourself. Having a positive attitude towards oneself helps boost confidence and how others may perceive you.
Preparing for the D-Day is as important as what you do at an actual event. It involves researching on people/industry/external affairs or any topic about the event you are attending. At any cost, avoid controversial issues. Also, prepare a 30-second speech about yourself, which is a summary of your achievements to date and the goals that you have planned for the future. Practice and rehearse your introduction and conversation topics.
Step 2: Approaching the Right Person/s & Starting a Conversation
Before you enter the gathering, visit the restroom for last-minute touch-up. Look in the mirror, adjust your posture and if possible, raise your arms and take a few deep breaths. Walk out with confidence and a smile on your face. As you walk in the room, quickly but subtly scan the place. Find the person or persons you may want to start the conversation. Approach.
If you are meeting a person standing alone (which generally is the easiest), bring your hand out for a handshake and introduce yourself. Avoid starting the conversation with mundane things like the weather or traffic. Moreover, whatever it takes, curb your urge to offer your business card. If you are approaching a group, find a gap between the conversation before making your introduction or offering an opinion on the topic being discussed. Please pay attention to what everyone is talking about and remember their names. Have some conversation starters ready, which can be especially useful when there is an awkward silence.
Interesting Fact: People will always pay attention to a sentence that starts with “Did you know….?”, however silly the fact is!
Step3: Taking the Next Step and Exiting a Conversation
It admittedly is the hardest thing to do. However, always remind yourself, why you are here in the first place. So, if you have had a fruitful conversation with someone, do not hesitate to take it further. Suggest a one on one catch up. Also, if the other person shows interest, offer your business card, and ask for their details. Depending on the situation, if you are comfortable, then you may even fix the date/time for the next meeting.
Want a guaranteed meeting? Offer something of value to them, even if it is merely an opportunity for the person to talk to you about themselves.
Do not stay with the same person for too long unless that meets your objective. However, be mindful it may not match theirs. Find a gap in the conversation. Make a polite exit by shaking their hands and wishing them a pleasurable evening, before moving on to other people.
Step 4: Post Session Follow Up
While this is one of the most natural steps, most failures take place here. Biggest reason……come next morning, we get so bogged down with our daily routine that all the effort from the previous day goes to waste. So, it’s imperative that post networking session you follow up with an email with a short note. Make sure you reference the event and anything you may have discussed. If you weren’t able to do it earlier, you might suggest a formal meeting or a casual catch up based on your conversation at the event. You may also connect via professional social media like LinkedIn.
Social media bobo: Do not send them a Facebook request unless you are long lost buddies or have 100 mutual friends!
If you do not receive an immediate response from them, it is OK. Most people, especially important ones, have hectic schedules, and they usually wait for some window of opportunity to catch up on non-urgent/non-essential messages. In the instance you haven’t heard back from the person, you can send them a second email after a week. Moreover, at that point, the person will be very thankful you mailed because they had forgotten.
Step 5: Continued Efforts & Success
Continue to build your network by attending events and being ready whenever you meet someone, as opportunities can arise anytime anywhere. Practice & rehearse your content and bring upon improvement. Try not to think of it as a task. Develop varied interests. Keep in touch with the people you meet and follow up as required.
To get the best outcome, learn to get rid of fears, and keep a positive mindset. Like anything else in life, there will be victories, and there will be setbacks. However, view less successful ones as an opportunity to learn and improve. At the end, be realistic about what you want to achieve and try to have some fun as you grow your network.