5 Tips for Networking the Right Way
Today’s job market is a smorgasbord of networking opportunities, because it has to be. Networking, as both a practice and a concept, is a non-negotiable skill, one we are all tasked with learning as our careers progress. It’s an investment in your future and an important one to make: a referral by someone you know is much more likely to result in an interview and potential job than simply applying via traditional applications.
But between social media, in-person meetings and good old-fashioned emails, there are plenty of right (and wrong) ways to network. The most important thing is that your way of networking is unique to you. To ease your worries, here are five tips that will help you at your next networking event.
Relationships, not transactions
Make solid connections with individuals so they will remember who you are when you do follow up with them. You want them to be interested to meet with you for coffee or lunch. If you go to networking events with the intention of just trying to sell to people, they won’t want to meet with you later because they know you’re going to pitch to them.
Invest in some social capital
If you want people to be eager to meet with you after networking events, the key is to find ways to help them. Think about all the relationships that had the possibility of forming and how many of them most likely didn’t. If everyone focused on learning who they could help, as opposed to who they could sell to, imagine the relationships that might have been. Good networking is all about investing in some social capital before asking for a withdrawal.
Be interested, not interesting
It’s not all about you. Do you want to make a connection (especially if you are networking up to someone more successful than you)? If so, be interested in what they are doing. Don’t pitch them the moment you meet them. But wait, it never hurts to ask, right? Wrong! Contrary to popular belief, it does hurt to ask for business before there’s any kind of relationship.
Quality over quantity
The only thing more important than the size of your network is the quality of your network. It’s a people puzzle, not a numbers game. It’s about finding out about the people you’re meeting with. It’s not about collecting as many cards as you can. If your network is a mile wide and an inch deep, you’ll never have a powerful personal network at your disposal.
Become engaged in the groups you belong to
If you really want to stand out in a network, volunteer and become a leader in it. It is amazing how much exposure you can receive when you are helping to run a group that you are active in. However, remember two things. First, just being a leader doesn’t mean you’ll get business. At some point, when you have developed a relationship, you do have to let people know that you’d like to do business with them. Second, whatever you do, don’t step down from a leadership role and then immediately quit the group. That really makes it look like you were there for only one reason (and the wrong one at that). Being a leader in a group is about giving back. The secondary benefit is that you can build great credibility.
What do you think?
There is no rule book to networking the right or wrong way. How can you tell the difference between a waste of time and an advantageous opportunity? I’m interested to know how you’ve figured that out and what your key networking tips are. Comment your views below and join the conversation.
This article was written by Jelena Milutinovic on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources were used to compile this article: Entrepreneur; Fortune and Harvard Business Review