Networking: The Key to Opportunity
The trick to success in today’s fast evolving business world is having a strong personal network. Professional contacts can help open new doors of opportunity for you, as well as provide support if needed.
Networking is a skill set we all know we should have, but often don’t have the confidence to follow through with it. Take a step back and don’t look at it as a daunting or intimidating task. Because in reality you should look at it as something as simple as coffee with your close friends.
Where and How to Begin
Start with the network you have and talk with people who are already in your circle. This circle includes friends, employees, professors, your clients, and even people who you met casually but haven’t used your services yet. From there you will be able to extend your circle to more people who share the same interests as you. Once you know who is in your network, take the time to get to know them. Add them on LinkedIn and follow them on social media. Small gestures can go a long way.
Whether you’re making connections with people at a networking event or on LinkedIn, speak to your “why”. Take the time to ask yourself where your passion stems from and what your mission is. By using this approach, you will be able to sell yourself on a genuine level that reflects who you are as a person. Keep in mind that networking is not about making a sales pitch, it’s about building casual and/or professional relationships.
Listen Before You Speak
Before you start networking, master the skill of listening! When you are networking with someone the conversation should not revolve around what YOU offer and what YOU can do. Instead, sit back and really listen. This will give you the opportunity to gather information and see how you can mutually help each other.
Leadership training specialist Dale Carengie stated, “The things you tell people, you already know. But you might still learn something from what other people tell you.” When you learn something new about someone, it gives you the opportunity to ask questions. This will show you are listening and is a great way to sustain an engaging conversation.
There’s nothing more BORING than hearing someone ramble on and on about what they would like to do and accomplish. Your bucket list may be exciting to you, but how does it relate to the value you can actually bring to the person in front of you? When it comes time for you to sell yourself based on your passions, do not speak on “ifs” or what “could” happen. Talk about what you’ve already accomplished. Show you are serious with a professional business card that has a link to a professional portfolio or website. Let your work speak for you!
So… next time you’re at a networking event, don’t put your audience to sleep with the following:
Using your phone as a distraction or a way to avoid conversation.
Looking for people who you already know.
Leaving without talking to AT LEAST three people.
Entering event without business cards.
Standing alone waiting to be approached.
Luckily, networking is a skill. The best did it through practice, so don’t worry if it’s not your strong suit. Take a deep breath, speak about your accomplishments, listen, ask questions, and engage with a sincere attitude. You are bound to create long lasting connections that will grow over time.
Contributed by: Carter Trabakino