Networking. It’s a word that conjures up dread for so many people.
Chances are the moment you read that word, an image popped into your head of a room full of strangers, many awkward conversations and the excessive exchanging of business cards.
And to be honest, if that is what popped into your head with the word networking, the dread is justified.
But I want you to take a moment and think about what networking actually is. What if networking is a series of connections or interactions between people.
Not so bad right? Now, simplify it further. What if networking is simply meeting new people and talking to them?
Easy right. It’s something we all do every day … but instead of labelling it with a word we associate with dread – it’s part of every day life.
On Friday night you catch up with your BFF Jane and over coffee you both chat about work and life in general. Saturday you have to go to brunch at boring Uncle Jo’s house (he’s some exec at some big company) but without a doubt, the highlight of your weekend is your cousins 24th birthday bash with all her friends and workmates.
In all those situations you are effectively networking – you just didn’t file it under that heading. Meeting people, connecting with them and chatting about things you both have in common is what networking is and should be about.
However, because we live in a society obsessed with definitions and labels, we very unfairly think that networking is something that can only be done at a formal networking event.
Busting Five Networking Myths.
1 // Networking is not limited to networking events. Wrong. In fact networking and can should be a continuous part of life.
2 // Networking is all about going out and finding opportunities. Wrong. Networking is simply than two (or more) people connecting and conversing. Perhaps an opportunity arises, perhaps it doesn’t. That is inconsequential and should not be the objective. Like most normal human interactions, when getting to know someone new, the emphasis should simply be on getting to know them.
3 // Networking is only for extroverts. Wrong. In many cases introverts make the best networkers because they may not be the people who have 100 conversations in an evening, but they tend to be the people who genuinely listen and engage with the person in front of them.
4 // A successful network is all about having a huge amount of contacts. Wrong. Whats the point of collecting 100 business cards or connecting to 100 people on linked in if you don’t really know anything about any of them and wouldn’t ever recognise them again if they were placed in front of you.
5 // Networking is too time consuming. Wrong. Unless you don’t have time to simply be a human living life.
Okay – myths busted. Hopefully by this point the dread of networking is slowly leaving your body and you’re starting to wander how you can capitalise on the networking opportunities that are apparently all around you.
5 Easy Ways to Integrate Networking Into Every Day Life.
1 // Consider everyone you touch in a day to be part of your network. Your lecturer, your work colleague, Uncle Jo, the electrician who helped fix your lights and that friend of a friend of a friend you met at after work drinks. Your network is made up of all the people in your world. Which leads perfectly into point number two.
2 // Make sure you collect the people you meet. How many times to you come into contact with someone and then simply let them go – only to wish down the line that you wish you had kept in touch. Whether you grab a business card, connect on Facebook or even better LinkedIn …
Being able to re-connect with people after you have met them turns a chance meeting into what we otherwise would call networking. And it doesn’t matter if you collect people in different ways … Just be logical about what makes sense with the person in front of you.
3 // Pay attention and take an interest. How many times have you been part of a conversation and if it’s not quite about you or relevant to you, you simply tune out … perhaps you start flicking through Facebook on your phone. Sometimes all you need to do is pay attention, and you might pick up some valuable information that you can use down the line, over perhaps you are able to interject in the conversation and connect someone in front of you with someone else you know who would be ideal to help them out. That there is perfect networking.
4 // Making chit chat. You’re on the train. You’re in line at the coffee shop. You’re waiting to meet a friend for wine. You have two options – stare ruthlessly at Facebook and avoid the world around you. Or you can strike up a conversation. The person behind you in the line. The guy next to you on the train. The manager who pours your wine and is happy to chat whilst it’s still early.
You never know who these people are and where the opportunity may lead … but being able to strike up a short but simple conversations is key – the weather, something from the news, something related to whats happening around you … you don’t need to bear your soul … just open the door with a bit of chit chat.
5 // Remember it’s not all about you. This one is best summed up with a quote by Dale Carnegie. “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
5 Tools to Help You Connect to Your Network and Manage Them.
1 // LinkedIn. The most obvious – but one that is rarely used well. If I have met you at an event or out and about – great that you want to connect with me – but make sure that you are adding in the context of where we met. If I don’t immediately recognise your name and you don’t give me context – I won’t accept the request.
2 // Business Cards: This is a bit of a controversial one – on one hand I feel business cards are hugely out of date – yet they still have their place. And lets face it, if someone asks you if you have a card, isn’t it a whole heap classier to be able to pull a card out – rather than scribbling your details on a post-it? Especially when you can buy 50 business cards from sites like moo.com for less than $20.
3 // Your personal website. Not a fan of business cards but want people to be able to look you up really easily? Buy your own domain name and stick a really simple website on there. With very little effort you will likely be able to have it ranking well and people will easily be able to find you and your contact details.
4 // A digital business card holder. My preference is Haystack, but there are plenty of them out there – that way when someone gives me a business card, i simply snap a photo of it and it converts to a digital card and I don’t have to remember where I kept that business card!
5 // An 30 second intro of yourself. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you find yourself having to introduce yourself and your mind goes black. It happens to all of us! Thats why its important to have your intro ready at all times! Better yet it’s free and totally in your control.