Building your profile and staying relevant in your business or workplace is no longer just about what you know; it’s also about who you know. Gone are the days when just hard work or the quality of your products and services is enough to earn you the favour of your employers or customers.
Would you like to get promoted?
Do you want to earn more money?
Would you like to get offered a new job?
Do you work for yourself as a freelancer or consultant?
Are you a part of an organisation that wants to succeed?
Have you aspirations of working for yourself in the future?
If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you’d better get networking.
But what is networking exactly?
Dr Rob Yeung describes networking as “a technique for presenting yourself effectively when you meet people so that they will want to meet and deal with you again.” ‘People’ could be a new contact you are meeting for the first time or colleagues and acquaintances whom you have known for some time.
Examine the definition again. What’s the first thing you see?
Networking is a Technique.
Networking is not innate to anyone, nor is it hereditary, it is learnt by practice. That your father has a large mesh of influential people in his network does not guarantee your ability to do it effectively, and vice-versa. It is not hinged on personality type or financial net worth either.
Anyone can learn networking. It’s all about understanding the nitty-gritty and putting your hands on the plough. In other words, meeting people is not networking, and networking is more than just meeting people. It is how you meet them, what you say and the lasting impression that you leave that matter. Of course, we meet people regularly, but we don’t network all the time.
Networking is presenting yourself.
Whether you are an extrovert or introvert by nature, because networking is a technique, you find that you may need to come out of your shell, or even in some cases, downplay your normal boisterous self.
It’s easier when you view meeting people as an opportunity to present yourself. And guess what? They are also meeting you for the same purpose. That forms the common ground. Cool! But then the next issue. What are you presenting about yourself?
First impression lasts longer. You sure don’t want to mess up the first stage. First, you should look good and smell nice. You should never make people feel like they are standing next to a lavatory when they are around you. Got it!
What about your facial expression? Your gestures? The tone of your voice? All these speak volumes about you. Be cool, especially in your conversation. Don’t sound like you are in an interview or doing a business presentation. It’s just a conversation; it’s a chat. Don’t overburden your listeners with too much information or shy away from answering questions when you are asked.
The location matters.
Where should you network? Good question. Network anywhere. On the bus. In a banking hall. At events. Conferences. Seminars. In church. It all depends on what your objectives are. Nevertheless, the location is a key factor to creating your opening line. Meeting someone at a business seminar requires that you’ll be formal, to some extent, and that you choose your words accurately. But it’s a totally different ball game when you meet someone on a bus. You need to understand the circumstance, adapt to it and shoot.
You should meet again.
A lot of us fail in this. Networking is just the first step to a relationship that should be built. Don’t start the process and fly off. You may have to start all over when next you meet. You will understand what that means if you recently spoke with a friend, client, partner or boss that you’ve not spoken with in a while. Even if it’s just a month, it often seems like ages.
Nurture the relationship. Find a way to meet again. It doesn’t have to be physical. You can do it virtually.
So, start now and build your network of contacts, you never know just when and where you’ll clinch that deal.