Surely you’ve heard the common saying “it’s all about who you know,“ right? While the actual meaning of this is basically saying that having an inside person can get you into places you may not easily enter on your own. Sometimes this phrase is used in a negative light, implying a sort of cheating method that someone has used to acquire something over someone else. However, it is legitimately not a negative thing, and is also quite applicable to how professional networking works.
If you’ve been looking for a job for any length of time, you have probably heard of the importance of networking. Knowing people and having contacts with others in and out of your career path can be very beneficial, but networking really works best when done properly. There are people that think networking is just a big numbers game. Just get your business card out there into as many hands as possible, gather contacts from as many other people as possible, and then compile a list of names you can call on for favors down the line, right? When you need something, then you just reach out - “Hey, remember we met at that job fair three years ago? Can you help me out with this….?” This type of scenario is not proper networking at all.
The Networking in Business site lists what can be considered to be some of the unwritten rules of proper networking that should be followed in order to achieve the maximum output. So let’s take a look at these:
Don’t try to sell to the people: Networking is about building a relationship, and should not be abused by hitting them up for selling your hottest new item. Using a connection or friendship for the purpose of making a sale can taint that relationship and should be avoided. Do not use your business contacts to do business with in this manner, but instead, build a separate list of contacts for such purposes.
Show a genuine, sincere interest in the people you meet: Networking should be about building relationships, not just compiling a list of people to request things from. Are you sincerely interested in the person, and seeking to build some kind of relationship with them that is mutually beneficial? That is what true networking is about.
Focus on how you can help or add value: A kind of addendum to the previous point, you should be interested in being of assistance to the other person first and foremost, before you should ever expect to ask them for anything. Be an asset to them and you’ll find that they will be more apt to be an asset to you when needed.
Focus on building a relation based on their plan or goal: Know what they need, what their goals are, and then use your talents to assist them. More times than not, this will come back around to be a benefit to you. Of course, if the other person is practicing these same rules of networking as you, it will be actively happening at the same time (though if they are not, do not think it necessary to remind them of it).
Follow up with the people: Don’t just be a contact in need, be a contact indeed. Building a relationship means being in some kind of fairly frequent contact. Don’t be distant and only pop up when you need something. Be there and visible when you don't need anything from them and offer assistance even when you have not been asked for it.
Cultivate confidence and trust: Are you a trustworthy person? When someone asks you for something, can they be confident that you will follow through? Do you pay lip service to requests, or are you a person of action? Work on building the confidence and trust that makes a relationship stronger and makes you the go-to person in times of need. This is how your networking will be most beneficial.
These are some of the key steps you can take to turn your list of simple contacts into a list of powerful relationships that will be most beneficial to you in the long run. As you fulfill these types of relationship qualities, your name will be on the minds and lips of more and more people, and this will lead to more and more professional opportunities.
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