As Robert Kiyosaki, an American businessman and author, said, “If you want to go somewhere, it is best to find someone who has already been there.”
In the business world, having a strong network can spell the difference between being a mediocre or successful professional. Therefore, no matter the industry and no matter your place in it, Networking is always a crucial part of building your career.
A report by LinkedIn found that 80% of individuals believe that Networking is an important part of achieving career success; however, many find creating and maintaining new business connections difficult and intimidating. Please read on for a few tips on how to do just that.
How to build your confidence in Networking
When presenting yourself to new people – especially in the business world – one should appear confident and competent. Therefore, before diving into the world of networking, it is important to first get over those initial nerves and worries.
If you are feeling a little cautious of getting out and speaking to new people, remember that this is completely normal – especially when you first start networking. Try to begin with the people you know – your employers, colleagues, even old friends from university. Don’t be afraid to push yourself out of your comfort zone and jump in, because that really is the best way to learn.
It is also essential to keep positive throughout your networking endeavours. Remember that people lead busy and stressful lives so if you don't receive messages back from certain people, do not let it weaken your spirit. Focus on the people that did respond and invest your energy into building connections with them.
Another great way to ensure you are prepared and appear confident when introducing yourself to new people is to prepare an ‘elevator pitch’ explaining who you are, what you do, and your purpose for speaking to them. It is best to keep this short, sweet and as authentic as possible, so it encourages organic conversation. An elevator pitch can be utilised for both virtual and face-to-face conversations and should be personalised for each individual. By doing this, you arm yourself with a great way to start a networking conversation.
The Five Steps to Effective Networking
Whether networking online, at your workplace, at networking events or even at your local café, following these five steps can assist you in forming strong business connections, no matter the situation.
Remember that when Networking, the business relationship should be mutually beneficial. Whether it be the sharing of contacts, opportunities, advice or information – to receive value, you must offer it yourself. Therefore, before you reach out to someone new or attend a networking event, think through how you can be of use to others. Try making a list of contacts you can share, job opportunities you are aware of, or any business-related advice or offerings.
It is also crucial to never start a conversation asking someone to help you, but rather focus on how you can be of assistance to them. This ensures that you do not seem like you seek to 'use and forget' your new connection, but that you value them and their time.
Be an active listener
Another key factor in building your confidence in Networking is to focus on being an active listener. When speaking to professionals in your industry, see the conversation more as a learning opportunity; listen intently to what they have to say and ask questions. This will make your potential connection feel appreciated and valued for their time and will help you to gain knowledge in the industry. Furthermore, being an active listener ensures that when you do have an input in the conversation, it is meaningful and well-educated.
Be reliable and back your promises
When forming new business connections and relationships, it is important to present your best self, and this means being reliable. If you make promises or commitments, back them up and show people that you can be counted on. This is applicable for anything from adding a person on LinkedIn to giving someone a referral for a new position. Ensure you only make promises you can keep and follow through with each commitment.
Provide connections and referrals
Providing and receiving referrals is a significant aspect of networking, as this can lead to new opportunities for all those involved and is another form of value exchange. Furthermore, a report by PayScale suggests that around 80% of jobs are never listed, but rather filled internally or through networking and/or referrals. And, when you provide quality referrals, you receive referrals – networking is a two-way street after all. Therefore, it is always best practice to give referrals to ensure you receive them too.
Keep in touch with your network
As Louisa Dahl, the CEO of Interactive Minds said, “following up is possibly the most important aspect of networking, as transferring that connection from a single meeting to ongoing communications is what will build a relationship”.
Therefore, keeping in touch with your connections is the only way to create a long-lasting business relationship. Keeping in contact can be done by connecting on social platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter, organising semi-regular catch-ups for closer contacts, and even sharing connections or news articles that you think may interest them.
Networking is all about the people and building mutually beneficial relationships. While this can be intimidating for some, anyone can do it – all you need is a little confidence and know-how of the best networking practices to get started.
Spending quality time and energy in creating a strong network of professionals is an investment in your career, and now is as good a time as any to start investing.