Ask any successful person and they will tell you that networking is a key element in moving one’s career forward. Your network is your networth. The art of developing powerful relationships can do wonders for one’s career and business. Research shows that the best jobs are never advertised and 85% of all jobs are secured through networking. But as familiar as it is to everyone in the workforce, it is one of the most underused career enhancement methods, due to misconceptions about how to network strategically. As someone who has been referred to as a “veteran networker,” here are some helpful tips on the Art of Schmoozing and Successful Networking and how to use networking to enhance and grow your professional and business network.
1. Networking Should Be Mutually Beneficial:
The most successful professionals know and understand that networking is a two-way street. A networking relationship should be mutually beneficial to each party. Ask what’s in it for the other party — not just what’s in for me. In fact, when it comes to networking it’s better to err on the side of giving than receiving. You can’t build your network and always expect to get something. You have to give something, to get something. Everyone has something to give, whether it’s time, talent, or performance. But perhaps the most valuable networking currency is information.
2. The “Work” in Networking is Just That.
All of us are familiar with networking and in the midst of drinking and socializing, strategic networking oftentimes gets lost. Networking is just that work, not net eating, net drinking or net partying. It’s hard engaging in a meaningful conversation with a full mouth. While networking can be accomplished anywhere, in Boston the best networking is done during the cocktail hour at a charity fundraiser, on the golf course or at a networking event such as Get Konnected. There are many “must show” non-profit events which occur in Boston, it is critical to know and attend these events. Find out which ones your company support and make it known that you are open and receptive to be attending these events. Remember the goal of networking is to make a connection not just socializing.
3. Don’t Expect to Make an Instant friend.
The most you can hope for at an initial meeting is to make a connection. With follow up and careful nurturing over time a connection could blossom into a very fruitful relationship. The key is to view networking as a long-term career strategy and to be diligent about following up with contacts. Always send a note or an email within a week after the first exchange. If able jot down some information from your conversation on the back of a contact’s business card to make following up easier and more relevant to your initial meeting. Following up should be continuous without appearing to be a “stalker.” The rewards from your meeting may not happen until six months or a year later.
4. Reach out to people outside your professional or social group:
If you subscribe to the belief that you should only network with people who look like you or share your profession and pay grade, you may already have missed opportunities coming from unexpected places. Sometimes people looking for a new job or trying to develop new business tend to focus only on hiring managers and executives above their level. According to the experts you should network laterally, vertically and horizontally. Never underestimate the power of the grapevine, good information sometimes comes from the places you least expect it. As a business owner some of my best contacts have been the executive assistants of some of the top CEOs in Boston. They are the gatekeepers you need to get past and getting to know them pays dividends. In addition, you never know where a former colleague may eventually end up in his or her career.
5. Build Strong Relationships: Both On and Off Line
Word of mouth is an effective and credible endorsement tool. Since it defines how you are perceived. Nothing is more powerful in building your brand than what your network of contacts — your friends, colleagues, customers, clients, current and former bosses — say about you. Borrow a page from the best corporate brand builders. Expand your network both online (Linked-in; Facebook; Twitter; Instagram etc) and off line by attending selected networking events and researching new professional and affinity groups that are relevant to your industry. Having a strong network requires relationship building. Stay plugged in to your network and share your successes with them.
6. Here’s what your need in your toolkit to be a good networker:
1) Business cards; 2) Breath mints or gum; 3) A firm shake; 4) Knowledge of current events; 5) A positive attitude and a warm engaging personality; 6) One or two really funny clean jokes; 7) Helpful information; 8) Willingness to follow-up; 9) Always make good eye contact; 10) Don’t outstay your welcome.
A good rule of thumb is always follow up with a email or even better a handwritten note within 48 hours of meeting someone, but never longer than a week. Remember the 4 UPS: Read Up! Show Up! Listen UP and FOLLOW UP!