Networking for Business Purposes: Simple Tips for Lifelong Networking
As college students, having only slightly experienced the professional world, networking is an illusive term that conjures mostly feelings of anxiety and annoyance.
However, Tom Alexander, Chief Operating Office of 1871, emphasizes that the concept of networking goes beyond a two-hour time commitment at an event at this workshop, Networking: Building Relationships between People and Organizations.
Rather than just the conversations happening at such events, it is a lifestyle attitude that you can practice anywhere with anyone at any time.
With the help of technology in this new economy, it’s been easier than ever to learn how to do it and practice it.
Alexander shared eleven steps in order to foster successful lifelong networking.
What is networking?
In today’s modern society, we often hear the term “networking” being used. But what exactly does it mean?
Networking is simply connecting with other people who have similar goals and dreams as yourself.
This is done through various means including face-to-face meetings, phone calls, emails, text messages, etc.
In order to network effectively, you must first understand what networking actually entails.
3 tips to help you become better at networking
- Know Your Target Audience
The first thing you need to do when trying to network is to figure out who you are going after.
Are you trying to meet someone who has a specific position within their company?
Or maybe you’re looking to meet someone who works in a completely unrelated field.
Either way, knowing who you are targeting will help you determine which methods to use to reach them.
- Be Prepared
When meeting someone for the first time, you should come prepared with questions.
These questions can range anywhere from asking about their career path to finding out what kind of hobbies they enjoy.
By doing this, you’ll be able to learn more about them and possibly form a connection.
- Don’t Oversell Yourself
One common mistake that most people make when networking is talking too much about themselves.
While it’s important to show off your accomplishments, don’t go overboard.
Instead, focus on the person you are speaking with and let them talk about themselves.
What are the benefits of networking?
Networking is an important part of any successful career.
Whether you are trying to advance within your current company, or move up to a higher position, getting out there and meeting new people can open doors that would otherwise remain closed.
Networking has been around since the beginning of human history.
People were trading goods long before the invention of currency, and they used their network of friends and family members to exchange these goods.
Today, most companies rely heavily on networking to promote themselves.
They send out press releases, hold events, and advertise their products through various forms of marketing.
But why is this such a big deal?
Why do so many businesses spend so much time and energy promoting themselves when they could simply focus on doing a better job?
The answer is simple. When you build relationships with other people, you increase your chances of being hired.
This happens because people tend to hire those whom they trust, and they are likely to trust someone who has proven himself trustworthy in the past.
So yes, networking is beneficial. But how exactly does it benefit you? Let’s take a look…
Benefits of networking
- Build Your Resume
When you first begin working, you probably don’t have much experience.
In fact, you might not even have a resume yet! But networking allows you to quickly gain valuable experience.
By building connections with other professionals, you can learn about jobs that you wouldn’t normally hear about.
This means that you can easily fill gaps in your knowledge base, which can lead to greater success later on.
- Gain Experience
Another reason why networking is so important is that it gives you experience.
As mentioned above, you can often learn something new by connecting with other professionals.
For example, you might discover that you enjoy working with certain technologies, or that you have a knack for sales.
These things aren’t necessarily obvious until you try them, and networking helps you figure out whether or not you’re cut out for a particular field.
- Expand Your Horizons
One of the biggest reasons why networking is so important today is because it allows you to expand your horizons.
While you might already have a specific goal in mind, you never know what kind of opportunity might come along.
11 steps for successful lifelong networking
- It starts now
Be present. From the moment you meet someone, you have a relationship to develop with them.
A handshake is your first physical interaction with anyone, so train your hand to meet the strength of their handshake.
- Accept the fuzzy math
Networking is not an equation of input yields output. Instead, it’s an unpredictable equation where you can only control the input.
The outcomes are uncertain in both their timeliness and magnitude.
However, once you shift your attitude of networking as a practice that is both giving and getting, all the input won’t seem like a hassle.
Giving is the right thing to do.
- What’s in a name?
It’s the sweet spot for everyone. Saying it is a simple signal that you care.
- It’s not about you!
Ask at least three questions at the beginning of every interaction before you mention yourself.
This gives you the opportunity to learn who they are and how you can relate to them more deeply.
This gives you momentum in your conversation.
- If there is a person, there is value
You learn something from everyone.
You may not be looking for a job at the grocery store checkout counter or in the taxi, but it will help you practice how to interact with every sort of individual.
You will become a natural and it will show through when you actually are trying to find a job.
- Social Media is a double-edged sword
Today we have the ability to make a single weekend interaction last a lifetime.
We are able to get in contact with anyone at any point.
However, this means there is a lot of noise, and this makes it hard to make people notice or remember you.
Recognize social media as a tool to interact.
- Share a meal
To weave networking into your everyday life, you need to be efficient. Grabbing coffee is trumped by sharing a meal.
Everyone needs to eat, and breaking bread is an experience to share. Breakfast is best.
- Networking is your business practice
Soccer professionals always carry a soccer ball; pianists are practicing at their pianos.
In the business world, networking is what you have to practice to be the best in your profession.
- Follow-up and follow-through
Be prepared to do 200% of the work for a successful interaction.
If it doesn’t flesh out, there are always other opportunities. Even more so, follow through with every opportunity presented to you.
- Build others up
Not recognizing the strengths in others or withholding praise actually reflects more on you than on them.
It reveals your insecurities. Be confident enough that you can recognize the skills of others – people will notice it and appreciate it.
- Have fun!
People want to be around people they like and feel good around. It’s simple.
Implementing these steps into your daily life will ensure that you are making strides toward creating your dream network that can both fuel your career and also enhance your life.
Regardless of your outcomes, Alexander stresses that it is important to have the same disposition and attitude whether you have your dream job or are looking for a job.
There are always opportunities to network and you will realize the investments later in life.