Give to get - 7 effective networking hacks that will advance your career or business
Advancing your career or growing your business is not only about what you know but very importantly also who you know.
The most connected people are often the most successful. But as much as networking is beneficial to your career, your business and even your personal life, it does not come easy to many people.
While chatting up strangers at a business conference is not exactly everyone’s favorite activity, don’t underestimate all the places where networking actually takes place and how you can benefit from the power of those connections.
Who actually belongs to my network?
Your network can include everyone from friends and family to work colleagues and social media, such as on LinkedIn. Don’t forget the power of mingling with members of groups to which you might belong – sporting teams, social groups or alumni organisations – just to name a few. Often relationships built in places that are not directly related to your business or work are the places where you will find your best contacts.
So how can you improve your networking skills to ensure you are networking efficiently and effectively?
Most importantly, it should not feel like you’re using your networks to further your career and do business. Rather, you should be building strong relationships with people of similar interests and with mutual benefits in mind. And don't forget - authenticity is key!
Effective do’s for successful networking:
1. Give first:
One of the biggest networking mistakes people make is asking for a favor off the bat. Instead, you should always give before you get. By doing this your contact will see how they will benefit. If you ask a new a relationship from the start then chances are high that you destroyed it even before cultivating it.
So when can you ask for help? There is no definite answer, so proceed with caution and follow your instincts. Just remember that seeking favors too early can turn your contacts off.
2. Ask for an introduction instead of doing it yourself:
If there’s a specific person you’re wanting to connect with, do some research on social media, such as LinkedIn and see if you already have a contact working for the same organization or already knows the person.
Explain your plan to your contact and ask if the person might be able to introduce you.
So instead of contacting the person yourself, you now have a strong endorsement instead of approaching the person as a total stranger. This will give you more credibility and increases the likelihood of a positive response.
3. Have a plan
While you don't need to know exactly what you expect to get out of each networking opportunity, it's important to head into networking with a goal in mind.
For example, make a list of people who can be instrumental in helping you achieve that, such as friends, co-workers or acquaintances.
Also, make a networking and relationship action plan for every professional goal that you have - be it landing a new job or building up your client base.
4. Taking care of connections:
For your relationships to become more robust, you need to reach out to your network on a regular basis.
The frequency and depth of your interactions depends on the strength of the relationship. For casual connections, the occasional WhatsApp message or Facebook comment might suffice. For deeper ones, think along the lines of an email or meeting.
5. Understanding interests
Before meeting someone you’d like to develop a relationship with, do an online search to uncover what they’re truly interested in.
By doing your homework it shows a sincere interest in the other person and not just as a business contact to use. This also helps you in understanding what you can offer the other person which will help build a connection.
6. Broaden your network
We tend to hang around people who are more like ourselves because that is more comfortable. But diversity is key to growing a strong network.
By building relationships with different people these can help you seek out new contacts whom you would have otherwise never met.
7. Get the most out of social media
Social media is a great and easy way to find others who share your interests. With so many platforms available you can chat and post with like-minded professionals and gain from their experience and knowledge.
Ask as well as answer questions to create a dialogue and build trust. You never know which one of those conversations could lead to your next big opportunity.