“Giving connects two people, the giver and the receiver, and this connection gives birth to a new sense of belonging.” ~ Deepak Chopra
Last week I wrote about some lessons I have learned from attending networking events. I titled that post “Networking 101: Some lessons learnt”. This week I want to expand on that theme. Networking is more than just a buzzword. Taking the time to network and build relationships is an important skill. Networking creates connections with others, and expands our circle of learning and support. It is more than meeting people or connecting with them at events or online, it involves building mutually advantageous links from which you can learn and benefit one another.
“The single greatest ‘people skill’ is a highly developed & authentic interest in the *other* person.” ~ Bob Burg
Most people think of networking in terms of their own needs or what they hope to gain from the networking relationship. However, I want to shift your focus from what can you get out of it to what can you give. Think about what you have to offer people instead of what you need from them. You expand your own network when you think in terms of what you can offer as well as what you need from others. You begin to seek out people to whom you can offer your expertise and talents rather than just those who have something to offer you. Seeing yourself as someone with much to offer also helps to boost your self-confidence.
When you network with others, it’s critical to identify others’ interests.
- Look for common interests and goals, as well as areas in which you have something to offer yourself.
- Ask about their goals and interests. How do they line up with yours?
- How can you integrate your interests with others’ to find common ground?
- What goals do you have in common?
- What can you offer of yourself to help others reach their goals?
- How can they help you reach your goals?
“You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” ~ Zig Ziglar
In order to network successfully, you must be able to reach out. There are many ways to do this, both online and in person. One of the easiest ways to reach out is to join professional social networking sites such as LinkedIn, and look for people in your industry or who share your interests. Join groups, both online and in person: professional groups and associations, groups that promote skills you want to develop (such as Toastmasters) and groups that work for causes you value are all good choices. Check out your local Chamber of Commerce or downtown business group. No matter what method you choose, as obvious as it might seem, the important part of networking is to talk to people! In last week’s post I covered what you need to do to be prepared in approaching people. Following up on that initial contact is the next step. Be responsive when people contact you via email or phone; for example, send a thank you note when someone agrees to connect with you on LinkedIn. Make time in your schedule each week to work on networking – schedule it as you would any other important task. Use your soft skills – listening actively, projecting self-confidence, build others up – as you network.