How to Network Successfully
If you’re a natural-born schmoozer with a charming personality, networking comes easy to you.
For introverts, networking, especially at social functions, can be a daunting task.
Yet whether you’re looking for a career change, seeking an opportunity to rise to the next level in your career, or trying to win new clients, building relationships remains as critical as ever.
The way to network successfully is to reach out broadly.
This article offers nine expert-approved key practices that are guaranteed to enhance your value — not merely outside your organization but inside as well.
Focus on “Them, Not You”
The key to building relationships isn’t to make a sales pitch and force others to listen to you. Approach each networking opportunity from the standpoint of “what you can offer” rather than “what can I get” and you will be amazed how many doors will open.
Avoid Random Card Dropping
When you meet someone for the first time, rather than dropping your business card in the person’s hand expecting him or her to follow up with you, try to build rapport first.
Your chances of hearing from the person are exponentially higher when you show your enthusiasm and engage in a conversation with genuine interest.
In the Japanese culture, the custom is to treat a card, and thereby the person, with respect. You want to study the card and look for anything that could spark a question or comment before shoving it into your pocket or handbag.
When the time is right, place the card in a secure and accessible spot.
Always Say Yes to Invitations
When it comes to building value propositions, attractive opportunities won’t simply fall into your lap. You have to go out and find them, experts say.
The more you’re out there talking to people, the better your chances of success.
So even when you don’t feel like going to a meeting or event, consider that you’ll always get something out of connecting with others —whether it’s a relationship that may lead to something more down the road, a new learning experience, or a conversation that sparks an idea.
Broadcast What You’re Looking For to Everyone
When you’re trying to achieve something, broadcast it to as many people as possible, according to the Harvard Business Review tips on networking. Be candid about your desires for your business.
A little vulnerability can go a long way into turning a casual conversation into a more meaningful one. When someone asks you, “How are things going?” make it a point to let the person know you’re looking for clients, a partnership, a new venture, or whatever your goal may be.
One contact will lead to other contacts, and eventually it’ll come back to you with a value proposition.
Contact People in Different Ways
Contact people broadly and use whatever way feels right. For more distant acquaintances and people you’re trying to meet, email may be easier at first, followed by a phone call, and then hopefully a meeting. Buy coffee or lunch. Keep in touch with people by contacting them periodically to give them an update or follow up with questions.
Build Bridges Within Your Organization
When people talk about networking, they often focus on connecting outside of their organizations. However, networking with colleagues is just as critical, the Harvard Business Review pointed out. Here are three key rules for building networks inside your organization:
- Focus on people with different skills and viewpoints or people who are the opposite of you. A strong tie is someone who knows a lot about you, but a weak tie can form new bridges.
- Identify long-tenured people at your company and ask them to connect you with a variety of teams and projects. This gives you an opportunity to help.
- Enlist your existing network to reach out to your target person and always be willing to help in return.
Always Give Your Full Attention
When you meet someone, give the person your full attention.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s good to remind yourself to keep an eye on the person you’re meeting rather than scouting out the other attractive targets in the room. This is not the time to answer your cell phone or to send or answer text messages or emails. People will pick up on how you treat them and how much attention you give them. Find polite ways to move on to meet another person in the room when the time is right.
If you’re looking to achieve a particular goal, keep records of whom you’ve met and where, and what you’ve learned. This is a great way to stay on top of your outreach efforts.
Evaluate Your Progress
If your networking efforts didn’t achieve the desired outcomes, perhaps it’s time to change your strategy. The best way to do this is by reviewing your notes from different meetings and looking at patterns.
You might also consider talking to a friend or someone close to you about your approach. Ask him or her to be brutally honest. You could learn something about yourself that might help you make the right connection the next time around.