The ability to network is not a skill one is born with. It is simply the process of developing mutually gratifying/advantageous relationships with like-minded people and businesses and, more importantly, can be learned, honed and developed. Networking is a marketing tool; crucial to your success. From face-to-face business conferences, to less formal coffee or after-work drinks meetings, there are also a wide variety of online and social networking methods including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Blogs.
Benefits of Networking
Networking has the ability to open many windows and doors to anyone at any stage of their career. Meeting and talking to the right people can earn you free advice, awareness of you and your company, word-of-mouth referrals and if done correctly, networking has the potential to gain you credibility, trust, professionalism, knowledge and expertise.
Social media is also a hugely valuable networking resource. It provides avenues through which to reach out to people you might never meet in person and it also allows you to interact with them on a daily basis. There are, however, a few simple rules you should adhere too for networking success.
And here’s a list of best and worst ways of networking:
Make the first move – There is no benefit sitting in the corner by yourself. Don’t be afraid to say hello to people around you. The chances are they are just as nervous as you.
Follow up – What’s the use of meeting people if you don’t follow up afterwards? So do follow up!
Listen and learn – This is a valuable lesson in life. Take time to learn from others’ experiences.
Be ready to give as well – You cannot expect to get something without offering anything in return. Offer free help or favours.
Patience is a virtue – Networking is developing strong, long-standing business relationships. Don’t expect to reap the rewards immediately. Good things come to those who wait.
Prepare questions – Anticipate the kind of people you are likely to meet and think about what you would like to ask them, what you would like to learn from them.
Don’t be timid – and only talk to people you already know. Networking isn’t just for the flamboyant big-shots or charismatic colleagues.
Don’t only speak to one person – The more the better.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions – Everyone is scared of appearing ignorant or stupid but there’s no need. The vast majority of people will relish the opportunity to showcase their knowledge and expertise, so make sure you ask as many questions as you can.
Avoid overzealous self-promotion – this tactic is more likely to annoy than build valuable relationships