Networking is a skill that is important to most people. You need to get to know your colleagues to work better together, you need to know your competition to see if you can learn from anything they’re doing, and you need to know your clients and potential clients to build your business.
For some people, networking can come fairly naturally, but for those who find it a little more daunting, here are some tips:
1. Don’t look at it as a chore
Networking is simply meeting people and developing a “network” of people to work, play or share things with. It may result in business contacts and successful sales but at the core it’s about meeting people with whom you can form mutually beneficial relationships. If you are building up a network of like-minded people it should be something you enjoy. You can meet people through doing things you like to do – book clubs, movie nights, designer sales, tennis, or wine tasting or it may be in more formal settings like work or industry events. The strongest bonds will be with people with whom you share genuine passions.
2. Start small and build up
You don’t have to conquer an industry or an event that you are attending. You only need to meet people one at a time and form a firm bond to develop a successful network. Not overstretching yourself can help you build deeper, stronger bonds with your network.
3. It’s not a numbers game
Don’t rush out and try to sign up as many people as you can to your LinkedIn page or your twitter account. Social media is a great way of networking, but remember the basics. Stay true to yourself, and your purpose and remember if you’re not giving something of value to your network then it will weaken. It’s all about mutual benefits. It’s not all about you - you are just part of the network.
4. Keep it up
If you are truly successful as a networker you keep in contact with your network regularly and check in to find out what’s happening, what’s new, and what you can do next. It’s easy to keep in touch through social media so there’s no excuse, but every so often you need to meet face to face to remain top of mind with people to get the most from your network. Make sure you meet with those who can help your career or your business on a regular basis.
5. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
Treat your network with respect. If you expect your network to help you find work, clients or business you should be prepared to do the same for them. People soon tire of the constant “takers” in their network. And, in trying to find opportunities to help others you will undoubtedly be building a better profile for yourself.
6. Be true to yourself
Your network will develop the way it should if you are true to yourself. Your job will be infinitely more difficult if you are trying to present yourself as someone else when you are meeting people. It will also be more difficult to sustain a lasting relationship. If you are found out to be fake then your network will likely find out quickly and word of mouth through your network will be damaging to your reputation.
7. Be open to opportunities
Be prepared to step outside your comfort zone occasionally to meet people that you wouldn’t ordinarily meet. Remember - you don’t always meet business contacts in a business setting. Live your life, do what you do normally, and you are likely to make strong contacts that way. The stronger your contacts, the more they will reach out to help you.
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This Information current as at 4 April 2017.
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