A popular quote says that “Your network is your net worth” and the truth is that most of us would certainly cite the strong network we have in our domains as one of our more valuable assets. However, have you ever wondered how someone’s network seems to be stronger and more powerful than others?
Networking is more than just going to events to exchange business cards. I have TONS of them in shoeboxes. (how do you keep yours? I used to buy those collectors but felt like a serial killer when I spent so much time ordering them.)
Let’s ask ourselves, “What do people network for?”
I would say some of the reasons for networking are:
– to get ideas
– to find opportunities
– to get mentored
– to build contacts
– to find new clients
– to find business partners
In other words, the usual bullshit, you know.
We network because we want to use someone else to get somewhere else. Even in the kindest, selfless, most generous and altruist way, the name of the game is to be able to do it with a reciprocal beneficial outcome which is not always out of necessity – that works too but only after a rather long probation period. There are certain people you meet whose sleek networking skills you greatly admire. It always seems to come naturally to them, and then you ask yourself why they are so natural at networking and what makes their networking skills effective.
To improve your own skills as well, here are 5 important things to help you stand out while networking:
Kindness: “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” You cannot have the desire to build and grow your network while being unkind. Kindness naturally draws people to you and it makes you seem approachable. This is an essential ingredient in networking. I am talking about a deep, natural kindness. It you fake it, people would know.
Empathy: The ability to be able to understand the feelings of the other person will also make you stand out. For instance, you should know when to stop talking, when to allow the other person talk about themselves, when to approach someone, and so on. Been genuine about how you would feel in a situation where the other person is facing a difficulty. It helps a lot in bonding. Empathy is a type of intelligence that you can improve on as long as you have a little of it to start with.
Selfless attitude: Networking is not only about what you can get but also about what you can give. It is a two-way street. When you meet someone, you should think about how you can add value to them, rather than only what the person can offer you.
Perseverance: You have to maximize the odds of meeting the right kind of people lined up for the purposes you are set to achieve and this in itself is a relentless effort. To persevere, you have to take on a positive attitude, the right mindset, and the best mood to do it. The conversation you are not having and the effort you are not making towards the other person it might be the ONE thing you are missing to boost you.
Structure: When you network, try to prepare as much as possible. Try to know in advance who you are going to meet, what their background is, why they are there, what they spoke about, and what they are working on at the moment. Also discover whatever news you can find about them. This would give you more ways to connect easily with them and they would be open with you.
When networking, here are some questions to ask yourself:
– What can I build? How can you help the other person build their vision?
– What can I learn? What can you learn from the other person?
– What deal can I make?
In addition, there are some misconceptions about networking you need to avoid:
- Well established people have better networks or are better at networking: This isn’t true; however, what is true is that wealthy people have mastered the art of networking that it comes easily to them. Networking is one of the skills they had to master in order to achieve their goals.
- Networking is the same thing as bonding: Bonding does not necessarily bring you the outcome you had planned in mind. It might be a simple way to find a new buddy to share beers with. Networking, for business, might not entail friendship immediately but it might lead to it.
- You can’t learn or improve networking: This is also wrong. Anyone can learn networking, and what’s more, you can get better at it. All you need to do is to keep practicing and studying how others excel at it. The misconception is true if you are a selfish asshole. You might find it very unrewarding, because people would feel it.
Whenever you meet a new person, the one question you need to ask yourself and commit to is this – How can I help you to become more successful?