There’s that ugly word – networking.
It seems to be the only people who like the word are those who like to talk for the sake of talking. And of course they think they are networking but they are misusing the word and twisting the concept of networking into a social hour event.
Networking is essential for success in today’s business world. It doesn’t matter what career or vocation path you take. From being a stay at home parent to a vice-president – networking is critical and crucial.
Networking comprises the skills, attitudes, and behaviors to develop an effective, broad-based system of resources through rapport with people in order to achieve mutually beneficial objectives.
Sounds complicated? It’s not, because the foundation of networking is building a rapport with others. Following these 10 simple steps will ensure you’re building an effective and sustainable rapport for networking to happen effortlessly.
1. Never Be Scared to Say “Hi”
No matter what type of person you are, saying “hi” can be scary, disconcerting, or even a chore. Networking is really about creating connections among the individuals you come into contact.
Creating a connection with someone else has to begin with the attitude that being friendly and saying “hi” is okay. Many times, in our society when we say “hi” to someone, they look at us strangely and help create the perception that we should say “hi” only to those we know.
Networking suggests the opposite. We need to create opportunities to say “hi,” knowing sometimes we will get a negative response. Maintaining a positive attitude, even in the face of negativity, provides the motivation to network.
2. Engage Conversationally
Too many times, I talk with people who forget this point when they network. They feel networking only fulfills a business purpose or a specific goal.
When you network in that manner, you are acting like a sales person. Networking is about creating connections among people, not selling something. So, converse with others.
Whether you are watching a sports event, sitting in the waiting room, or at a meeting, engaging others in a conversation builds rapport naturally. Once rapport is built, connections are made. Connections between people in terms of who they know, what they do, their strengths and interests.
Networking happens effortless again when you converse and not dominate.
3. Timing is Everything
As in all of life, when something happens is as important as what happens. So when you say “hi” and engage in a conversation ensure the timing is right.
Riding an elevator with someone five floors isn’t enough time to build rapport or engage in a meaningful conversation. Sitting next to someone on a flight or train may be.
Before you begin, assess if the timing is right. Are you in the right mind set? Is the environment conducive to conversation? Is the person you are about to engage sending non-verbal information they want to be left alone? Successful conversations need both parties to be intentional and present – timing is everything!
4. Whistle While You Work
Networking should be fun.
Enjoy the time you talk to others. Set an intention of interest and be interested in who they are.
When networking becomes a chore you have to do, you should stop and take stock of why you are networking.
Networking should not be a chore. It should be an effective way to create resource links. So enjoy using, practicing, and honing your skills.
5. Improve Your Skills with a Compelling Opening and Closing
Know why you are networking. Once you know that, opening and closing becomes easy.
Open to build rapport and create a productive conversation. Continue the conversation with enjoyment and levity.
Close the conversation by suggesting ways you may connect in the future.
If you use this simple formula each time you network. Your networking skills will improve with each conversation.
6. Resist the Sales Pitch
Remember the goal of networking should be to hold a conversation.
Resist giving a long sales pitch. A well-messaged, short elevator pitch is perfect. Your elevator pitch should lead to further interest in your conversation.
Converse with kindness and interest in the other person. This will help create a resource link for the future.
7. Keep Your Energy Up
Networking is emotionally and physically draining.
When it’s important to network at conferences, school events, or other functions, remember to keep your energy up.
When your energy is up, smiling and fun are contagious to those around you. Your enthusiasm and energy will motivate others to create conversations that help build rapport naturally and quickly.
This can’t be stressed enough. Networking is about interacting with others and building rapport so that lasting relationships are built.
Interact the way you might at a relaxing social event – with ease and calmness. Let go of your current frustrations and worries. Interact with others with compassion and care. The more relaxed you are, the easier the conversation will happen, and the more genuine connections will be made.
9. Leverage the “Net” in Networking
Networking is like casting a net.
Each person with whom you network has people with whom they also network. Before you know it, you are networking with someone who knows someone you know. Easy. It is like talking to a family member you haven’t seen in a while.
10. Be Genuine
It is interesting this word is our last word in how to network.
It is easy to tell when someone is disingenuous. We know what that feels like when someone is not genuine as he/she talks to us. We feel unimportant and likely offended.
No matter how difficult it may be to apply any of the other skills in your networking, it is essential to network with a genuine attitude. It will be evident in what you say, how you say it, and how you deliver it.
FURTHER READING ON NETWORKING/BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS
- Why “What do you do?” is So Important
- Building a Relationship? Give Options for BOTH Coffee and Lunch
- Step Away from the Urn, and Other Networking Tips
- Leave Your “But” Behind
- Say What you Want, Say it in Under 30 Seconds
Reprinted from the Bucks-Lehigh Magazine by Dave Piltz
Photography Source: Flickr, Fruitnet