Written by Catherine Adenle
I am aware that the word ‘networking’ to a lot of people is a word that evokes anxiety. While most would agree it’s a necessary evil, only a few know how to successfully use meetings, gatherings and events to form professional contacts and lifelong friends.
Through networking, you can meet hiring managers for companies and hear about an unadvertised position, find a better business opportunity, or get some insight into the best way to apply for a particular position.
I admire how some people can freely network without even thinking about it. However, I must admit that via the use of Social Media (the use of Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Chime.in, and Facebook), through attending trainings, meetings, conferences and other business gatherings, I have built up a great network of SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) and a Rolodex of contacts, as well as some great friends. Networking takes more than just a LinkedIn, Twitter profile or a deep Rolodex though. It takes being pro-active and the readiness to maintain relationships.
By effectively building and maintaining a network of colleagues, business associates and more, you are ensuring that whenever you need a new job, have reasons to develop your skills further, require a new client, you can call upon your network to help you.
Professionally, it is important to become a superstar networker because there are short- and long-term benefits in networking like a superstar networker. The number one rule is not to make a mistake of focusing on just what you want, rather connect and listen to others as a true superstar networker will do.
As a job seeker, you want to stand out against the sea of other job-seekers. It goes without saying that having the right contacts can get you the job of your dream. Considering that most jobs come through personal connections, building your network should be high priority during and after a job search.
Here are 8 quick tips to help you become a superstar networker.
1. Scary a bit, but just do it! I agree that for some people, it is daunting. It’s scary to put yourself out there, but just summon the courage and do it anyway! The rewards will greatly outweigh the risk. A networking superstar will not think twice, they will talk to people they don’t know in a heart beat. So, try and talk to few people you don’t know everywhere you go. Parties and weddings are just the tip of the iceberg; don’t forget about airplane rides, supermarket lines and exhibitions.
2. Give and share as much as you get. Don’t just take, but be prepared to share your knowledge too. Offer help to others, you’ll find them far more open to the idea of helping you down the road. Forming relationships built on trust will help you be the person your contacts think of the next time they can find a way to help you.
3. Keep in Touch. Stay in touch with people you meet, like and respect them genuinely even if they can’t help you immediately. Remember that it’s not cool to go to someone only when you are desperate for something.
With networking opportunities about, make sure you actually take them. Networking only works if you put yourself out there and start talking to people. Let your guard down a bit, relax, smile and be aware of what your body language communicates.
4. Have a networking strategy. To become a superstar networker, you have to be ready always. Have an elevator speech explaining who you are and what you do, and practice enough that it rolls off your tongue. Make sure that you allow yourself to consistently meet new people. By so doing, you will learn from others about your industry, profession, and the companies you’re interested in. Always think about networking as part of your career strategy. Remember your 3Fs – Friends, Family and Fools. They are the most obvious groups, these are people who probably like you because they either have to, or they just do!
5. Utilize social media. Believe it or not, many relationships start or flourish through social networking. According to a recent report from Nielsen, Americans now spend more time using social network sites more than ever. With social networking sites, you can research and connect with other professionals easier than ever. While it’s true that face to face meetings solidify relationships, when it comes to networking, you cannot ignore the opportunity to carefully select who you are prepared to network with first. You can easily start by using a professional site like LinkedIn first. There you can network with people who work at the company you’re interested in. Then use Twitter to micro communicate with people, Facebook to stay in touch once you get to know people. The less obvious ones like Ning, Yahoo! Groups have their advantages too. Another word of caution here, be sure to keep things professional on these site if you are seeking employment – see How Recruiters Use Social Networks to Screen Candidates [INFOGRAPHIC]. Be sure to also trust your instinct to follow or not to follow.
For more information also see Social Media: Making it work for you and An Introduction to LinkedIn: In Restrictions a Gold Mine
6. Be proactive. Nothing happens, unless we make them happen. Networking doesn’t just happen, you need to be active in your efforts and make sure you get out and meet people. You can start in bite size form by learning how to talk to some people you meet at business meetings, trainings, and conferences. It helps if you have a stack of business cards ready to hand out. Another word of caution though – you don’t want to be the headless chicken who works the room racing to collect and hand out your cards. Always wait until you have a conversation before you exchange cards. Being genuine works, so be prepared to ask plenty of questions of others, and keep in mind that you’re trying to help them first, not the other way around.
7. Take advantage of opportunities. With networking opportunities about, make sure you actually take them. Networking only works if you put yourself out there and start talking to people. Let your guard down a bit, relax, smile and be aware of what your body language communicates.
8. Keep it positive. I can’t stress this enough – if you have been job seeking for a year or two, it’s easy to lose self esteem because you’ve been rejected in the job hunt, and this can affect everything, including your networking skills. Remember, staying positive makes you approachable and memorable. You have to consider each networking event an opportunity to learn something new or meet someone interesting, so leave no room for negative vibes.
It’s not about the quantity but the quality. Don’t judge your networking power by the number of people you connect with but by how you gain, share and give any needed knowledge and information. What are your contact doing for you and what are you able to give back.
Sharpening your networking skills will serve you well throughout your professional career, especially when job searching. Ensure that you can also categorize your network into: mentors, sponsors, promoters, informers, advisors and experts. Remember that networking takes time and relationships won’t develop overnight, so you have to be patient.
So, have you got any tried and tested tips on how to become a super networker? Let’s hear from you.