Having the right contacts can make a world of difference in your professional life. It can give your career a substantial boost by opening doors that would otherwise remain closed. Using the same analogy, you can unlock the doors of nearly all academic institutions by using professional writing services.
But what exactly is networking? How can it help you in your career? Why is it so important? What should you pay attention to? And, more importantly, Can you learn networking?
The answer is, “Yes, you can!”
The following tips and tricks will help you become a real networking guru!
Networking refers to the establishment and maintenance of a network of contacts. The goal of networking is to share knowledge and provide mutual help (for example, during a job hunt or climbing the career ladder). Networking is based on the principle of making friends, with each new member bringing in their own new contacts. Thus, the resulting network is constantly expanding.
But how does one become good at networking? What advice can professionals give to total novices? What are the main rules and biggest mistakes?
To become good at networking, you should follow these four basic rules:
- Set yourself clear goals
What do I expect from my potential contacts? What do I want to achieve with their help? Only those who can define their goals and set priorities can convey them to others.
- Quality over quantity
A network is only valuable when it’s comprised of members. Who you include in your private circle should depend on your goals, not statistics.
- Give first, then take
The best way to start a network is by comparing professional similarities and sharing knowledge. And you shouldn’t expect to get anything in return.
- Stay on the ball
Once the connection is established, you should make it last as long as possible. You can achieve that through the exchange of ideas and one-on-one (!) meetings. Remember – contacts should be maintained at all costs!
Learning Networking: Who Should You Include in Your Network?
You may be wondering now: What are the right contacts? Which of them should I include in my network?
That’s a good question! It always depends on your CV, career goals, and plans. But basically – and that’s the most important thing – you should include two types of people in your network:
- People who pursue similar goals.
- People who have already achieved the goals you’re trying to accomplish.
People who pursue similar goals have similar backgrounds
Contacts like this have similar backgrounds, similar goals, and, therefore, similar problems (including their solutions). So, why not profit from each other by exchanging this info on a regular basis? After all, you do not have to commit mistakes others have already made. It’s a win-win situation for everybody.
That said, you shouldn’t have too many contacts in your network. It will be increasingly difficult and time-consuming for you to organize such exchanges regularly.
You can also have the so-called gentlemen’s agreement: what is exchanged within your network stays there. The info you share can be about:
- Career experience
- Educational opportunities
Basically, what you are doing here is simply creating a citation cartel known in sociology as the Dutch Admiral Paradigm. Here’s the story behind it: two Dutch cadets made a reciprocal pledge to speak of each other’s achievements in the most flattering terms at social gatherings. Because they kept doing it on a regular basis, they ended up being two youngest admirals in the Netherlands.
People who have already achieved the goals you’ve set out to accomplish are even more important
There are two reasons for that:
- They can be your mentors, and you can learn a lot from them.
- You can become their successor one day.
In short, these people have a lot of experience and insider knowledge they can share with you. Maintain these contacts selectively and regularly. And, most importantly, keep asking them all kinds of questions, such as::
- What do you love about your job?
- What challenges should I expect?
- What key qualities should I possess to achieve my professional goals?
- What is it that I should have known earlier?
- What advice would you give to a beginner like me?
Tips for Better Networking
Establishing contact with the “right” people is the result of strategic and continuous networking. The following tips and tricks will help you narrow down your focus.
Always maintain eye contact
Especially when you engage in conversation. However, you should be careful not to overdo it: staring fixedly at your interlocutor may make them feel intimidated. That said, you shouldn’t look away too often, either. Remember – whoever looks away first has lost.
That signals your interest in your interlocutor. However, try not to get too close to the person you’re talking to. That may frighten them and make you look too dominant.
Smiling is proven to be the easiest way to get to know someone. It also helps you make some nice compliments everyone would like to hear.
Always have a goal
Even when pacing up and down a room, you should try looking like a person who has a goal. Nobody will want to have anything to do with a person that keeps milling aimlessly around.
Mimic your interlocutor
The mirror-image behavior shows how harmonious a relationship or conversation is. It can also be used to reduce the distance to the person you’re talking to. Carefully imitate the body language of your interlocutor by using the so-called “chameleon technique”: if they fold their arms, you should do likewise. Over time, you will gain their trust without them ever noticing it. Incidentally, it works the same way with facial expressions and spoken language. You can mimic your interlocutor’s rate of speech, accent, or word choice. But, please, do not make it look too obvious! It has to be really subtle.
Before making the first contact, you should gain enough information about your prospective contact. Having it will let you start a conversation with them more easily. It can also help you predict certain reactions in people.
We immediately find likable people who understand us and share the same feelings with us.
An idea, a new concept, or a good contact will do just fine. The important thing here is to make sure that it really helps the other person. Such a noble gesture will help you break the ice and leave a lasting impression on your interlocutor.
The 70-20-10 Formula
Social media consultant Mike Sansone has come up with a formula for successful networking. He called it the 70-20-10 rule:
Trust is the beginning of everything, including lasting and fruitful relationships. So, if you want to build a network of contacts, you should invest 70 percent of your time into gaining other people’s trust. And this is best done by helping others.
As soon as people trust you and, thanks to your help, achieve some tangible results, they will start to be interested in you. The next 20 percent should be spent on getting others to know you better. That can be achieved by letting them know what your motivation is. Show them who you are, but, please, avoid bragging.
So, you have committed yourself to others, gained their trust and got to know them better. Now, you can expect them to help you and thus become a valuable asset for you. You can, therefore, talk to them about yourself and your needs. Ask them for their advice or help, but make sure you spend only 10 percent of your time on it.
Nobody likes to speed things up unnaturally. Relationships, just like trust, grow slowly.
By recommending people (of course, only those who you know really well), you’ll help three of them at a time: your new contact, their peer and you. The first two will also be the ones who will praise you for being a great mediator and helper.
Never make empty promises
Promises like “I’ll get back to you tomorrow” should be always made good on. Remember – your trustworthiness is measured by whether or not you deliver on your commitments. Failure to do so will hurt your credibility enormously.
Ask meaningful questions
You do not know what to talk about? Ask questions, then! By asking your interlocutor polite and specific questions, you show them that you are really interested in them. Not only do you get new information for your network of contacts, but also flatter the ego of your new contact.
Your email signature and profiles on various social networks (and your blog) have one thing in common: they can and should link you to other networks and make it easier for you to get in touch with them.
Properly introduce yourself
If possible, introduce yourself by saying your first and last name. Your first sentence will help your interlocutor understand what they can expect from you. This can also be a short (!) description of what you do professionally or a phrase that will make the other person want to talk to you.
Offer a hand
It may sound too obvious, but a simple handshake has two important effects: it reveals a lot about yourself and helps make physical contact. And that lets you establish contact at a subliminal level.
Give business cards
Important: never distribute business cards like ordinary playing cards. Always do it with due respect. Only then will you be regarded as a trustworthy and respectable individual.
Sure, that’s an overused word. Above all, it refers to being friendly and honest. Nobody likes self-centered people. If you are worried about it, you should praise the other person and ask them a lot of questions.
Be positive at all times
They say success makes you look sexy. And there’s a simple reason for that: successful people are extremely attractive. Try to preserve that inner contentment and radiate it wherever you go.
Wear comfortable clothes
Of course, you should observe a dress code if you’re required to adhere to one. That said, you should also make sure that you feel well in your clothes. Because that’s what people will pay attention to immediately.
Networking is hard work (just as the word “working” suggests). Your mind has to stay alert all the time. Your stress resistance and reaction speed should be correspondingly high as well. That requires you to spend a lot of energy. Therefore, you should take breaks whenever you can.
ALWAYS check on your new contacts
Each new contact should be contacted within three days (e.g., by email, mail, or phone). Tell them how excited you were to meet them. Tell them that you really enjoyed your conversation with them and that you really look forward to seeing them again soon.
Classic Networking Errors
Thinking only of your own benefit
This mistake is typical of beginners. As soon as contact is made, they want to take maximum advantage of it. Or they can turn around and leave once they have benefited from someone else’s knowledge or help. Anyone who does that proves their incompetence.
Quantity over quality
The quality of your network does not depend on the number of contacts. Rather, it’s about getting the right people into your own network. What good will your 50 contacts be to you if none of them can help you?
Collecting too many contacts
Form a kind of an inner circle. It pays to invest more time and energy in some contacts and less in others. Be sure to handle your contacts effectively while networking.
Wanting to impress contacts
Professional contacts do not necessarily result from convincing others of your superb skills. It’s much more important to show authentic interest in your interlocutor.
Turning a meeting into a promotion
Do not start your meetings by selling your products or services. Such a meeting is neither a fair nor a showroom. This is all about establishing contact with people. When they realize that you are only interested in what they can give you, and not their merits, they will simply leave.
Not having enough time to network
It’s one of the most common networking mistakes. It really does not take much time to make contacts.
Starting too late
They say that you build networks when you do not need them and benefit from them when you need them. You will never be able to make contact when you need it urgently.
If you wait for others to contact you, you will never expand your network. Therefore, you have to be proactive.
No networking at all
In this case, there’s nothing we can do for you. Sorry…
How to Network Even If You Hate It
Networking can be a lot of fun. However, for some, it is just a necessary evil.
There can be many reasons for that, but we still recommend that you give it a try (even if you hate networking).
Here are a few tips:
- Take it easy
You do not have to appeal to everyone. Think carefully about what you want to achieve with your network and what people can help you with it. Then, try to establish contact by tweeting, posting comments on Facebook, and sending emails. Take your time – it’s not the quantity but the quality that matters.
- Think of it as a game
Imagine getting into a conversation with at least three interesting people at an upcoming event. Thinking of it as a game will help you quickly overcome your shyness.
- Take a friend with you
Many of us do not like the idea of being alone in a room full of strangers. So, why not bring a good friend or colleague along? However, you should not spend too much time together. Split up and give other people an opportunity to come up to you and start a conversation.
- Be a good listener
Many believe that networking is all about being eloquent. Of course, that helps. But you can also make a good impression by asking smart questions and being a good listener.