How are your networking strategies doing these days?
Have you been practicing at least a little bit lately? Or is networking an activity that’s been on the ‘off’ button for some time now?
By the way, I’m not talking about simply collecting business cards. I’m talking about developing new relationships in your field of business.
I’m sure, once in a while, you hear about the importance of growing your contact list. Be it by reading about it on LinkedIn or learning about it in work related training sessions.
However, my take is that for the majority of women, networking tends to remain a concept more than anything else.
Women understand networking can be really useful, but deep-down, they tell themselves, ‘It’s not for me, I’m really not natural at these things. Anyway, I don’t really need it for my job.’ Does this sound like you?
Well, my goal here is to change your mind and make you see that not only is it pretty easy to integrate some networking strategies in your routine, but it’s a necessity to help you get ahead, no matter where you’re at in your career.
Networking is like working out
Take exercise for example. You know it’s good for you. And you know that in order to get the health benefits it provides, you have to do it regularly — like a few times a week, right?
Whether you aim to lose weight or to improve your energy level, it requires a good deal of dedication to decide you’re gonna start any new physical activity.
Well, learning to expand your network, is sort of like deciding to try a new type of fitness class. The first few classes are tough. You feel out of shape and have a hard time following the teacher’s moves.
But if you stick with it long enough, you start noticing some of the health benefits, and realize that your coordination has dramatically improved. At this point you’re probably even enjoying it — at least to some degree.
It’s no secret, the more you practice any task, the more natural and automatic it becomes. This is not to say that it’s always easy.
Once in a while you’ll be tempted to skip a class. However, you’ll remind yourself how hard you’ve worked to get to the shape you’re in now, and how good you feel at the end of your training. You’ll think of the goals you set for yourself which still haven’t been completely attained. And these will be enough to convince you to pick up your bag and go to that class.
Once you’ve reached that point, you know you don’t want to stop. You’ve managed to include these classes in your routine.
Now, in order for you to decide you want to dedicate some time and effort to expand your network, you first have to be convinced of the benefits you will get out of it.
Having a network = Having more power
“Networking has been cited as the number one unwritten rule of success in business. Who you know really impacts what you know.” Sally Krawcheck
Remember that people want to work with people they know and like. Building relationships is one of the most important aspects in your career, as explains this article from Forbes.
I can tell you from experience that having the possibility to simply pick up the phone and call a contact of yours to solve a problem, influence a decision, or simply clarify a situation that’s been messing with your project at work, can be pretty darn satisfying.
Having access to your network of contacts will allow you to:
- Take short cuts
- Access key information
- Find new business opportunities
- Share some of your ideas and influence decisions to come
- Make your expertise and skills better known
- Bounce ideas off people
- Help other people
- Get a new job
- Generally be more successful
It always comes back to the fact that we are more powerful collectively than by ourselves. By growing your network, you will feel stronger and increase your capability to have an impact.
Fix yourself small targets using the strategies suggested below. Slowly but surely, it will have a ripple effect. At one point, you’ll look back and realize you’ve built something really impressive.
When you face a problem or challenge, your contact list will become one of your natural ‘go-to’ solution.
The bonus? You’ll meet fascinating people with different backgrounds and experiences along the way. People with whom you may even become friends.
Strategies of networking to integrate in your routine
Start small. Set yourself one target. Then as it gets easier, set another. You’ll quickly get motivated, as you’ll start noticing the value of having these new connections.
People you’ll want to add to your network are:
- Managers from your company
- Work colleagues
- People practicing in your field of business
- Consultants you’ve met through various mandates at work
- People who share your interests
A lot of your networking can be done through people you already know. By communicating your needs to your circle of contacts, you’re likely to find one of them can help or at least knows someone who may be able to help you. It’s always easier to introduce ourselves to a total stranger when we’re recommended by someone they already know.
4 effective networking strategies
1. Social media: In today’s world, social media has become inevitable to grow your network. LinkedIn and Twitter are probably the two most used media for business purposes. They make it easy to stay in touch with your contacts and even allow you to establish new relationships with people you think share the same business interests you do.
Networking strategies: Begin by spending just 5 minutes a day on LinkedIn. Even 3 times a week is a good start. If you’re really tight with time, do it in the morning while having breakfast. Remember however that consistency is key. Interact (‘likes’ and comment) with people you follow and people you admire or whose posts you appreciate. Also try to share and post content your audience will find informative.
2. Lunches: When you want to learn more about a person or need a good deal of information from them, organizing a lunch date is often the right choice. It may also be a good idea to buy them lunch to show your appreciation for their generosity.
Networking strategies: Keep building a list of people you would like to meet. Start with the goal of having at least one networking lunch per month. Then ideally increase to once every two weeks. Reserve lunch periods ahead of time in your agenda — block every Thursday for example — with a reminder message to book the person.
3. Internal meetings: People from other teams within your company can become great additions to your network of contacts. Sometimes they can provide a quick info or refer you to the right person and save you a ton of time on your project.
Networking strategies: When you go to a meeting, always take note of people’s names and titles. While you’re in the meeting, consider the various needs you have at that moment for your ongoing projects. If you feel someone could be of help to you, let them know at the end of the meeting you might be calling them later on for a quick information. That way they’ll be expecting your call, which will make the introduction easier when you do call them.
4. Events and conferences: These are great opportunities to not only collect business cards, but to develop your network outside of your immediate environment. If you’re not much of an extrovert, it’s probably the toughest context of them all.
Networking strategies: Before you leave for that event of conference, set a goal for yourself. It could be to get acquainted with at least one person who seems to share some of your interests. Pay attention to attendees who ask questions during a presentation. This can be a good way to spot people who potentially have common interest and may have something to offer in your line of business. One way of initiating the conversation with one of the attendees is to refer to a specific part of the presentation you found interesting or still have questions about.
Remember these principles
The satisfaction of giving: Helping others makes us feel good. We all get satisfaction out of knowing we’ve been useful to someone. So don’t hesitate to ask for help. Occasionally, someone won’t be receptive. Maybe they’re just to busy with work or have other reasons of their own. Don’t take it personal, it’s part of the game. Just move on.
It’s a two-way street: Strong relationships are never a one-way street. Remember to return the favor once in a while. You don’t necessarily have to keep score, but offer your help whenever possible.
Networking strategies don’t need to be phony: On the contrary, you should concentrate on creating a network of contacts with people who share some of your interests and goals in order to develop meaningful relationships.
Don’t wait, start now: Don’t wait until you need to change jobs to start building your network. Start working on it now, and start appreciating all the benefits — large and small — it will bring to your daily business life.