If you’re going to network, for goodness sake do it well
Networking has a bad name. We all ‘know’ we should do it but, most of us would happily choose Netflix and a glass of wine instead. The issue, as Meg Jay points out in her book The Defining Decade, is that 74% of jobs come through, what she calls, weak ties – people you sort of know but don’t really, friends of friends, your boss’s wife.
The fact is networking is a brilliant way of progressing anything you are working on. Anything. So, my advice? If you are going to do it, do it well. I know that sounds stupid but, having worked with thousands of people, it is incredible the number who do it because they think they should BUT don’t put the effort into doing it well. If that is you, and the time has come to do more than just show up and shuffle around avoiding eye contact, try these three things.
Be a giver. Most people hate networking because they hate asking for things. The answer is to be a giver. How can you help the person you are connecting with? An introduction, a book or a hotel recommendation, some advice or just to listen to them as they talk through a problem. The minute you make it about them, and not about you, the whole energy of the interaction changes. Givers listen, they ask genuine questions and they share things about themselves. Who they really are, their passions and their dreams. When we connect in this way it is far easier to ask for something at a later date if they haven’t already offered it.
Be ‘re’markable. And by this I mean be worthy of ‘re’ mark. The aim of networking is to be memorable. So memorable in fact, that someone remembers you a few weeks later, when they are talking to someone that could help you. So, work on your pitch. If you could only share three things about you – three things that someone could remember – what would they be? Again, don’t be confined to work things. One of the best pitches I ever heard was by a wonderful woman called Hannah Stenton who, amongst other things, told me she had a gold-medal-winning flock of sheep. I have never forgotten that or her. So, take the time to find your remarkable, and then be really clear on how you want to direct their thinking. Tell them what you are focused on right now and inevitably they will think about how they could help you.
Be consistent. Firstly, the obvious bit: if you promise something then do it by the time you said you would. Secondly, networking isn’t always about face-to-face events. Technology has made it so much easier; investing just 10 mins a day could change your life. Use LinkedIn and use it properly – send personal messages to people you meet and with shared interests. Use email, text, WhatsApp to stay in touch with people you met at work, on courses, on a weekend away. It doesn’t have to be often, but it does have to be personal. Read an article and share it with people you know that would like it. Share pictures, stories, updates, anything that for a few seconds puts you in their head. And, every so often you will get a message back that says ‘funnily enough I was talking about you the other day, I think you should meet X – they are looking for someone just like you…’ and all of a sudden that 10 mins a becomes a brilliant new opportunity.
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