You’ve heard this advice before, “it’s not what you know but WHO you know”. As cliche as it can be, networking is essential to moving up the mountain. The goal of networking is to build relationships, but many people make the mistake of treating it as a one-way street. While some people like to think about networking as all about them and their success, there are plenty of ways that you can help others through networking. You might be good at business, but there are many ways for you to get an edge in terms of networking and connecting with people. If you’ve ever given networking a shot, then it can be frustrating and disappointing because you feel like you aren’t making any traction, or “leaving your mark” on the world, despite the energy and effort you’re pouring into it. Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, networking will be beneficial for you. Nearly everyone does it, but most people do it with their agenda in mind. This can cause a lot of tension. But by using these tips, you can network effectively
Stop hiding behind a computer.
It’s time to get out of your comfort zone and start networking in person. You’re probably wondering where you can start—well, you could start in the kitchen of your apartment, at the bus stop, or even in line at the grocery store. You’ll be surprised by how much more successful you are when you meet people face to face.
Be smart about who you connect with.
Don’t just connect with anyone and everyone; connect with people who can help you achieve your goals and make you better at what you do! Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from someone who has been there before—they’ll appreciate that you took the time to reach out and will likely be happy to help (and if they aren’t, then maybe they weren’t the right person for this anyway).
Don’t be shy about your goals.
When someone asks what your goals are, don’t be afraid to tell them! People like helping others achieve their goals—it makes them feel good about themselves and gives them a sense of purpose. If someone seems like they could help you out but you’re not sure where they stand on your goals, ask! They’ll probably be more than happy to share some insight into how they might be able to help—and if not, it’s better for both of you if you know upfront that it’s not going to work out instead of waiting around for nothing!
Don’t pitch yourself right away.
You’re at a networking event and you’ve just shaken hands with someone new. You want to start a conversation, but you’re not sure what to say. You want to start by giving your elevator pitch, but that’s not always the best way to go about it.
It’s easy to get caught up in your own goals and forget about the other person—and that’s not what networking is about! Instead of immediately pitching yourself, ask them questions about themselves and their company. What do they do? How long have they been in business? How are they doing? What are they looking for in an employee or partner? When you have an understanding of what they need, you can better tailor your pitch to fit their needs, which will make your chances of getting hired or partnered with them much higher.
Find ways to help before you get help.
Being helpful is one of the best ways to build relationships and make connections. Think about ways that you could help people who are in your industry or field—and then actually do it! Offer advice on their projects, give them a recommendation when they need help from another colleague or friend, or provide resources that will help them out.
If you’re looking for a way to find opportunities to make an impression on people who can help your career, try volunteering at an event or organization that aligns with your interests and passions. A great way to meet people is by offering your services as a volunteer—you’ll get face time with people who are interested in what you have to offer, plus it will give them a chance to see how hardworking and committed you are!
Learn how to listen.
You’d be surprised how many people don’t listen in networking situations. They’re too busy thinking about what they want to say next, planning their response, or analyzing the person they’re talking to.
Networking isn’t just about you! It’s about the other person. And if you want them to help you, then you need to be present and attentive when they’re talking. You can’t do that if your brain is somewhere else, so make sure you focus on what they have to say.
Always remember it is a two-way street
Networking isn’t just about getting stuff for yourself—it’s about helping others and building relationships, too. So remember that when someone offers up information in a conversation with you, it’s not always for your benefit only—they might have something useful for them as well!
Many people get nervous about networking because they feel like they have nothing to offer others—that they don’t have anything interesting or valuable to say. But remember: it’s not just about you! When you meet someone new at an event or conference, it’s important to think about how you can help them as well as how they can help you. Your goal should be to make connections with people who can help each other succeed professionally and personally.
Finally, networking is a means of building relationships. This won’t happen on any marketing material or pamphlet you read. Instead, it’s something that happens natively. You can’t force it. It happens naturally because you are genuinely interested in others and helping them out.
Networking is a learned skill, just like how you learn to drive a car or how to play a sport. Nobody is going to be able to make you good at it. All they can do is provide you with knowledge and tips that you can use on your own. To be great at networking, you need to spend a lot of time doing it and get burned sometimes. Be genuine in your interactions, and treat others as you would want to be treated. With that foundation, you’ll be on your way to creating meaningful relationships online—and in person, too. After all, social networking isn’t just about business connections; it’s about creating connections with people in general. It’s what you do with those connections that make them meaningful.