Regardless of what line of work you are in, networking is probably one of the most common words uttered by your peers, collaborators, and clients. And there is a good reason for that, Networking is an extremely effective strategy for growing your business, and growing yourself as a professional and a person. You get to learn from some of the best people in your field, and in addition to that, you also get to build your own authority in the eyes of others by associating with major figures.
But, as nice as it sounds, there are a few problems with the concept of networking. More often than not, networking feels somewhat dishonest and less than authentic. Networking with someone, just so you can get something out of it in the future is not exactly genuine. But, even if your heart is in the right place, you probably don’t even know where you can start, how to act, and how to nurture a relationship.
Also, there is the fact that some people are extroverts who thrive in a highly social environment and which makes them naturals at networking, while others are introverts, which dread the idea of a room full of people, and only feel comfortable when left alone with their own thoughts. However, while they are different, extroverts and introverts aren’t polar opposites, because they do share some traits.
Introverts have the advantage when it comes to networking. They can be extremely good at networking depending on the environment they are in. They tend to be more effective in situations where they have time to warm up to others. Also, they are much better with the written word than extroverts, and when it comes to the Internet, they feel right at home, which is certainly an advantage.
So, whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, our full guide to networking will help you achieve your goals, without feeling sleazy in the process. Keep on reading.
1. Seek out Environments Where You Feel Comfortable
Even if you are an introvert who shies away from networking events, you can still meet new people, by focusing on the locations you are already familiar with. That way, you will be more relaxed and inclined to approach other people. Environment is one of the most crucial factors which influences your ability to socialize with others, which means it can be used to your advantage. In the right environment, you will feel more confident and less stressed out, which ultimately puts you in a better mood.
But, even if you are not a position to choose your surroundings, and that will often happen, you can make it easier on yourself by introducing some routines or habits from home into the process. For example, most people like to check their phones whenever they find themselves in a new situation where they feel uncomfortable. There is a reason behind that. Habits enable our minds to stop stressing and focus on other things that require brain power, such as networking. Even though the effect is temporary, sometimes that’s all the time you need to start feeling comfortable about talk to someone new.
2. Take the Time to Prepare Yourself
One of the reasons you may find networking stressful is the irrational fear of speaking your mind at the most inappropriate moment and embarrassing yourself. While it’s hard to ignore it, you can do several things to minimize its influence on you.
Begin by giving yourself enough time to prepare. Being rushed will impair your cognitive abilities. Just remember those short pop quizzes back in high school, or rushing through a job interview because you were late. If it helps, get there earlier to warm up to the surroundings. It may seem weird, but you can also go through some of the conversations in your head in order to prepare for the actual thing. Think about the questions you will want to ask them, and which will help you guide your conversation to where you want it to go. Analyse the event, think about the people that will attend and create a detailed plan. If you are an introvert, it should come easily to you.
Once you do engage in a conversation, do not feel like it’s your duty to agree to absolutely everything the other party asks of you. You have the right to say no, plus, you won’t find yourself In a position where have you have to do something you don’t want to because you want to come off as reliable and trustworthy. Also, keeping your word is much easier if you are genuine in the first place,
3. Have a Goal
Networking for the sake of networking is pretty much a waste of time because you need to have a clearly defined goal you want to achieve in order to make the most of it. For example, try to imagine where you want to be in five years from now. Let’s say you want to make 500,000 dollars. Then start working your way back to the present. Think about what you should do in the following 12 months in order to reach your goal in five years. You may want to earn your first 50,000 dollars or move into a new office.
Then start thinking even more specifically by setting a goal for the next 90 days in order to get one step closer to your one year goal. It may be something as simple as making your first sale or obtaining your first client. Finally, think about what you need to do today. Start learning and reading, and go to bed knowing more than you knew when you woke up in the morning.
Once you have your goals figured out, you will know which people you’ll need to meet in order to get there, which will make your networking efforts much more focused and cost-effective.
4. Choose the People
With your goals in place, it is time to focus on the people which can help you get there. A good exercise would be to think of three or five people which are able to speed up that process. They may already be a part of your network, or you may have mutual contacts. Or you may not know them at all. Usually, those people are your mentors and tutors with years of experience behind them and which have the necessary expertise you can benefit from.
Also, in this day and age, especially if you are running an online business, those people can be your clients. If they are satisfied with your product or service, they will be willing to spread the word about it and become your brand’s ambassadors. Of course, you will also need to network with potential investors and get them to finance your ideas and turn them into reality. If you are running a large operation, you will also need loyal and capable collaborators that can shoulder some of the burdens.
Last, but not least, there are people which can be called superconnectors, which have an extremely well-developed network of contacts, and which can connect you with almost anyone with ease. Needless to say, you will need to go through a difficult and time-consuming research process in order to identify the best people to network with, but there are no shortcuts when it comes to that.
5. Introduce Superconnectors to One Another and Become One Yourself
The role of superconnectors is becoming increasingly important, because it’s hard to reach the right through all the noise. While it’s not the most obvious networking strategy, because you are not meeting anybody new, introducing two connectors to each other is one of the most effective and beneficial. And it’s so easy to do, because they will most likely hit it off, because they have the same affinities, and probably have a few mutual acquaintances.
In the beginning, it is the superconnectors who benefits from this approach, but eventually, it is you who will emerge as the biggest winner of them all. It’s hard to find people that are givers, which superconnectors certainly are, and they will appreciate that. In fact, rest assured they will return the favour and think of you right away when they meet another contact that might be able to help your business.
Another important thing to remember is to treat all these new people you meet as friends, and not simply as contacts. Approach them with the same mentality and grow your relationship as you would a friendship. That means receiving and giving back, and most importantly, following up, even if you don’t have a particular reason for it.
One of the reasons why networking is so challenging is because you are dealing with people, but it may also be one of the best things about it. That means there are no strict rules. All you have to do is put yourself out there and be genuine, appreciate the help you get from others, and give back to them in the same manner.