'Give today - Get tomorrow' - Networking is a two way street. The key to building a strong and credible network is remembering the phrase ‘It’s not what you can do for me; it’s what I can do for you!’ When you want to extend your network it is essential that you help others first before asking for help. Become invaluable to them, give them advice, don’t look desperate, gain their respect and trust and when it comes to you needing help, they will feel that at least they have gained something from the relationship.
Practice a brief Pitch or Introduction - No one wants to listen to anyone rambling on about themselves from the minute they meet. Think about what you NEED to say in 2-3 sentences to convey who you are and what you are about - then listen! Try to get involved in the conversation by adding constructive points, be part of the conversation do not take over or be a wall flower. Smile - Body Language is important!! J
Get to know your network – Directly related to the point above; it is all about helping others. Do your research before embarking on your new networking journey. Find out some information about the people you will be talking to, show them that you have knowledge of their careers, products or services. New potential colleagues will appreciate you more if you show some awareness of what they do and what is important to them.
Follow up - It is not a score card nor a numbers game. There is no point in having hundreds of business cards or connections if they cannot remember you. A useful network only exists when you truly know a person, have invested the time in getting to know them - the best way to do this , is to follow up. Set a reminder to send a tweet to key people today on Twitter, or a quick email on Linkedin. Stay fresh in your network's thoughts - and over a few exchanges, a valuable relationship will begin to form.
Target your fellow networkers – Don’t just randomly appear at conferences, events etc in the hope of perhaps meeting a useful contact, target! It is important that you are networking with people that will ultimately be of use to you, so don’t leave this to chance. Take the bull by the horns and actually target your contacts, plan who you would like to meet and consider why. Should you focus on a particular niche? Or would a mixed network be more useful to you going forward? Set your strategy and follow it.
Step out of your box – It is important to ensure that you are networking in a range of directions. It is tempting to stick to what you know and continue to network within your chosen field only. Just remember that often careers and industries overlap as do roles and levels of seniority. Broaden your network by branching out of your box; you might just become even more valuable in your own industry by having contacts outside the usual areas. Being viewed by your industry as an expert is very good - but being viewed as an expert by your industry and people from other industries is a bigger challenge. It is always good to know someone in another industry where you can ask a question if need to.
Be Nice, Patient and Genuine – This may sound strange but it is important to remember that networking isn’t all about you! Of course you are there to make new contacts and meet potential colleagues but don’t expect favours. If you have taken note of the points above and have helped someone out don’t expect payback. View networking as an opportunity to explore new horizons, no-one is obligated to ‘return favours’ so don’t expect it. Instead see each new contact for what they really are – a new contact! They may not actually help you now but your paths may cross again in the future – when you are least expecting it! Be Genuine, Be Patient and Be Nice!
Value everyone you meet – Ok so you have targeted the key contacts you would like to make but be careful not to dismiss those that are not on your list. Value everyone as you never know when you might need to avail of their services. Even the most random person may actually be of use to you one day. So store these people in your back pocket for a rainy day!
Make use of Networking Tools to be more Effective - There are many different ways of networking, organising contacts and keeping connected. While the business card is not dead (just yet) there are many apps for your mobile phone and your email that will help you be a more effective and successful networker. At ProfileTree we use one such app - Rapportive which serves up public information on everyone who emails you. When you open an email, you are presented with their profile, picture and latest tweets. Great for building a personal relationship with someone. Don't forget the more traditional modern communication tools such as AIM or instant messaging services, Skype, Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.
Remember if you are considering becoming self-employed the skill of Networking will become an essential tool in helping you find those all important new contacts, check out our article - Self -employment - is it the way forward?. Also find new contacts and make new connections right here at profiletree.com. Check out other people's profiles and connect with them today!
Know of any other great networking tools or tips? What do you find useful when you are networking? Let us know!