We live in a time when everybody seems to be too busy.
Every so often, we tend to be too focused in our careers that we sometimes don’t see past that. We don’t socialize, we set aside less and less time in meeting new people, and most of the time, we prefer staying in than extending our social circle.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but what we don’t realize is that we all need to learn how to network effectively. This can significantly help us advance in both our professional undertakings and personal life.
When you are not exactly a very sociable individual, networking can prove to be a difficult task to do. This article aims to help you out on how to overcome that. Below are 8 tips on how you could branch out more effectively:
1. Start with your own circle
Let’s face it – not all your contacts are worth building a relationship with. Look into your own circle and filter it through to set apart the ones who are most likely going to help you out in the future. Remember that you need people who will be more than names on your address book.
Evaluate your current circle – family, friends, colleagues, even acquaintances. It is nearly impossible to branch out to everyone you know on a very consistent basis. As such, it is important that you know which ones you need to establish a solid and constant connection with.
In these modern times, whom you know is just as important as what you know. Therefore, you need to know which ones are going to get you connected to even more valuable contacts. Your next potential client or best buddy could be just an introduction away.
However, it is important to note that not all events are worthy of your time. With all the meetings, business events, social gatherings and family matters, we need to manage our time as wisely and efficiently as we could.
Before committing to an event, make sure you know what the agenda is. Have a good grasp of how this could make you better. Additionally, if you can, get a list of the people attending the said event. This would help you in evaluating if it is worth going to.
Weigh things out before confirming to an engagement. One of the common mistakes of extending your circle is saying yes to all events, consequently causing you to double book and eventually miss appointments.
3. Come prepared
Essay Scholar Advisor’s Director of Marketing, Stephanie Wilson, says “Effective networking starts even before meeting the people you’re supposed to meet. Make a conscious effort to learn the things the other person is passionate about and be as interested in them as you want them to be interested in yours.”
Research about the other person’s previous projects or works, his interests and what he is currently working on. Go beyond the obvious stuff that are published online. Surprise them by bringing up flattering facts that not a lot of people know about them already.
Be wary, however, that you do not seem like you are stalking them. Be genuinely interested in knowing more about the other person.
4. Build relationships and actively maintain them
Networking goes beyond the exchange of business cards. Moreover, the last thing you want to do while networking is obvious sales pitching.
The end goal of networking is building meaningful, deep and real relationships that could help you out in your future endeavors and not a bunch of useless contacts you have no intentions of striking up a conversation with, nor a closed deal that will eventually get cancelled because terms and conditions weren’t clearly laid out.
As Ivan Misner puts it, "Networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. It's not just about who you know -- it's about how well you know them." Constantly make an effort to reach out and maintain the relationships you’ve built.
Remembering birthdays, sending a thank you note, ringing a friend, and emailing them once in a while are just a few ways to keep the relationship.
Cultivate the connection, not just with the length of the relationship but also the depth of it. Also, do not limit yourself to people of the same industry. Cultivate and build relationship with contacts in other fields like Marketing, Business Development, HR, and others. This will allow you to widen your circle of influence.
Although it is important to know a lot of people, this will prove to be trivial when you do not go beyond being acquaintances. Most of the time, it is not with the number of people you know but in the depth of how much you know about them. It is only when you know them beyond the surface that you could truly connect with them more effectively than others.
Even when you do lose touch, never be afraid to rekindle the relationship. Chances are, the other person is also just waiting for the perfect chance to talk to you again. It is important, however, that you don’t only reach out when you need favors. That is a definite no-no to successful relationships.
Furthermore, be a networker for others. Introduce your circle to people that might also be valuable contacts for them. Entrepreneur Shazia Awan says, “People will always remember who pointed them in the right direction, who put them in touch with someone useful and if and when the time arises they will happily do the same for you.” As such, it is important that you also help others in extending their circle, as much as they help you with yours.
5. Communicate effectively
Networking is a two-way street so communication is key. You need to pay close attention to the people you’re connected with. Below are foolproof tricks in improving your communication skills:
Improve your listening skills
One cannot communicate effectively if one cannot listen well. Make a conscious effort to pay attention, every time. Keep your mind open to the things that you are yet to learn about the other person.
When you are in a conversation, do not let your mind wander to irrelevant things. Maintain a positive attitude and immerse yourself with the topics being discussed.
Be intentional in communicating
Take the initiative to strike up a few conversations or join group discussions instead of waiting for others to come to you. There is a high possibility that others are just as anxious as you are in initiating the conversation. Your next business partner could very well be one “hello” away. Don’t miss on that opportunity just because you were too shy.
Develop your vocabulary
Effective communication springs from getting your message across loud and clear. This requires correct use of the right terms at the right opportunities. Broaden your knowledge by reading the newspaper, browsing through helpful magazines, spending time on informative articles or simply listening to others. Grab every opportunity to learn.
6. Stick around for the after parties
If things are going well, you do not want to leave it at that without solidifying your connection just because the event is over. If there is an after party, make sure you are there. Be visible. You have to go out and actively connect.
When you feel the need for it, you can even invite some people for a drink or dinner to continue where you left off.
7. Take advantage of social media
Nowadays, it is a lot easier to build, maintain and strengthen your connections with the help of emerging technologies. Spend time socializing online and you would be surprised at how effortlessly your connections grow.
Utilize professional sites like LinkedIn. Make sure you have updated information on your profile others can browse through to gain ample knowledge about what you do.
You may also use platforms like Facebook and Twitter to share relevant information that others may find helpful.
8. Give as much as you take
As with any relationships, it is equally important to give as it is to take what you want. We are often very focused on what we can get out of the relationship and could tend to forget what we can give to make the other person stay.
Think about it this way, “If you are not getting anything good out of a relationship, why would you want to keep it?” It is, therefore, essential that you give as much as you take.
People in healthy relationships do not drain each other empty. There is a mutual exchange of help whenever it is needed. Networking is a perpetual cycle of give and take.
While it is true that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy in effective networking, it is important to know the things you could do to keep the good relationships and improve the poor ones. Cliché as it may be, no man is an island. We all need to socialize once in a while because the gap between you and success could be just a person waiting to bridge out that space.