Business Networking 101 – Networking Tips
Posted: February 10, 2015 Filed under: Goal-Setting, Networking | Tags: Advice, alumni, board, Business, connecting, diverse network, Employee, Entrepreneur, follow up, help others, Leadership, LinkedIn, mentorship, network, Networking, networking guide, networking tips, pay it forward, professional relationship, stakeholders, TAB
I’ve found connecting with others, personally or professionally, enriches your life. Traditional networking tips and guides have made networking seem like a dry transaction, but I believe networking is far more. Networking is most effective when you meet and get to know people before you ask for help, or offer your products or services. Remember that networking is about being genuine and authentic – your aim is to build trust, relationships and figure out how you can help others. Here are a few networking tips that I have found helpful and hope you will too:
TIP 1: Make Networking a Regular Part of Your Life
I understand your time is valuable and it’s easy to say you don’t have the time to network, but you should make the time for it! Schedule time each week (a meeting, lunch, coffee…etc.) where you can connect with colleagues and key stakeholders. Identify a couple of organizations that will be good resources for your professional development and join them. Finding organizations that align with your values will make networking feel natural, thus, it will become a regular part of your life.
TIP 2: Connect With Professionals who are Different from You
Your network is a source of knowledge, opportunity, prospective business partnerships, future hires, and more. You never know whom you may meet, or whom they know. A diverse network is a strong network!
TIP 3: Keep In Touch with Alumni
As important as it is to make new connections, you still need to nurture existing ones. People like former bosses, colleagues, and school alumni already know what value you bring to the table. Keeping in touch with old connections can be a great source of support, connect you to other people, and they can recommend new opportunities to you.
TIP 4: Reach Out
There’s the obvious LinkedIn connection and the obligatory “thanks for connecting” message, but when you hear or read about someone that impresses you, why not reach out over e-mail? Sending a quick and thoughtful e-mail (keep it to a paragraph or two to avoid information overload) can be a quick and easy way to make a new connection.
TIP 5: Join a Board
Joining peer boards, like TAB, is a great way to meet professionals outside of your industry. You’ll already have common interests since you both chose to be there, so connecting and finding common ground will be that much easier. Bonus tip: Step outside your bubble and look for boards outside of your industry (see Tip 2 for why!).
TIP 6: Help Others First
When you make a new connection try to focus on how you can help them first, and be prepared to give without receiving. Did they mention their brother or girlfriend is looking for a job and you happen to know of one he/she may be interested in? If so, follow up and ask for a resume to pass along to the right people. Even if you don’t get their brother or girlfriend the job, you’re helping your new connection by trying to fulfill a need they or someone close to them has. Most people will naturally reciprocate, and if you continue to help others you’ll be known for your pay it forward attitude. People will come to you for help, and offer theirs without you having to ask.
TIP 7: Tell Your Story and Speak with Confidence
Start by sharing your personal story. Rather than asking for something or talking about what you want from others, share how you got to this point in your life and why you’re talking to this person. Your story will show off your values and beliefs, and will help spark that connection needed to build a professional relationship. Oh, and don’t forget to smile!
TIP 8: Be Prepared So You Can Relax
When you attend events or meetings do your research so you can ask thoughtful and informed questions that people will remember you by. When you go prepared you’re able to relax so you can have fun! People will naturally be drawn to this energy.
Doing your research also means you might learn about some key people you want to meet.
TIP 9: Remember the Small Stuff
You don’t have to add all your contacts’ birthdays or anniversaries into your calendar, however making sure to send your well wishes will go a long way. Small gestures get noticed.
February Networking Challenge
I challenge each of you to get networking, and meet at least one new person this month. Develop a professional connection with them, or, deepen an existing professional relationship. Use the above tips to help you, and remember to have fun!
Do you find the above tips helpful? Share your thoughts and questions with me in the comment section.