Get Networking Working for You
"Networking puts eyes and ears in places where you yourself can't look and can't listen." ~Max MessmerA client of mine was laid off after 15 years with the same company. One of her first realizations was that she wished she had networked more during that time to stay in contact with people she met in her industry and to make new contacts. This would have proved invaluable to her when she started to look for new work.
What is it about networking that's not working for you? I'm talking about the old fashioned face-to-face contact, not social networking, which is a whole other topic.
We continue to hear that networking is the number one way to find the job we're looking for, earn the business we want, find the resources we need, and to make the connections we yearn for as human beings. If this is true, then why aren't we all stars at networking?
I always thought networking had the meaning of working hard to grab as many people as you can in your net. Kind of like fishing for tuna. The more the better. I thought it was an odd word to use.
Dictionary.com defines networking as: a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest.
Isn't that a much more effortless way of looking at it?
Oh, it's supportive. That means that I can also help other people. And by the way, that is the best approach to take. Magic words asking someone "How can I help you?"
Oh, it's a system. There is an order, a schema. Now, that I can work with. I need a plan to work in a system. I can do that.
Oh, it's sharing information and services. It's not about going in and being desperate to make the one right connection (although it is about making connections). I have lots of information and great services to share.
Oh, we have a common interest. Of course. That is what would draw a group of people to any networking event. All I have to do is find the common interest.
Others are there for the same reason as I am. To find a supportive system of sharing information and services between individuals and groups having a common interest. Knowing we're there for the same reason makes meeting others it a lot easier.
With this perspective on networking, here are a few things I have found to work for networking at events.
- Just do it. I was really fearful of networking when I started my business many years ago, but now I consider myself a pretty good networker. I still feel the GULP and I do it anyway. I remind myself that most of these people are here for the same reason I am.
- Be specific. Have your 15-30 second elevator speech ready. Use a networking event as a playground for testing out your elevator speech. Use it and see how it lands. Try it several times and if necessary revise it.
- Future contact. I remember that in all likelihood if this isn't an industry event or a regular networking event, I will never see most of these people again… unless I want to. This idea frees me up to do things such as test my elevator speech, or a new marketing phrase I want to set up, or to do a survey of something I’m thinking about.
- Ask the other person, "How can I help you?" These are the magic words and I have found that most often, people don't know how to respond, but they do love being asked. You just must be prepared to help them if they do ask you for something specific.
- Keep your promises. If you say you're going to do something, e.g., make a connection, give a referral, send an article, be sure you do it. There is nothing worse than breaking a promise to start off a relationship.