Networking – We know we’re supposed to, but what’s the point?
The point is simple, really: with networking comes opportunities! The more we network, the more opportunities we present ourselves to. The more opportunities we take, the greater chance we have of accomplishing something meaningful, valuable, worth lots of money… whatever it is we hope for.
By building relationships with many different people, we can expand upon our knowledge base, extend our creative abilities, and might get the extra edge over our competition.
It’s important to network with a diverse group of people. If I am in marketing and only talk to marketers, all we know is marketing. BUT if I am in marketing and I talk to accountants, engineers, warehouse employees, operations managers, human resource managers, consumers, government employees, artists, pilots, and everybody else I can find, I learn a lot about many things! Therefore, I can market effectively to everyone. Maybe one day I decide to apply for a marketing position at an airport. That pilot I made a positive relationship with might be the voice behind the hiring process that takes my resume from a large pool of applicants, to a small pool of candidates. Maybe a company is looking to change up their break room. An employee might remember the operator who told them about a cool micro market idea. Then they call you looking for business! See what I mean?
Now that you know why it’s important to network, you need to know how to do it. Forbes listed 7 tips to make networking a professional development boot camp:
- Peer learning
- Think of it as a focus group. Observe and learn from those around you.
- You must always be ready
- Networking can’t be forced.
- You must be quick on your feet and ready to give meaningful responses.
- Be active and ready for engagement!
- Take notes while you network
- Gather intelligence about yourself and others.
- Ask non-traditional questions
- Get people to discover something deeper about what you know.
- Put your personal brand to the test
- Give your brand exposure but, don’t oversell it.
- When you leave, people should know:
- Your enduring idea
- What differentiates you from others
- The experience you leave behind
- Whom you serve
- Continue the conversation
- If a conversation was worthwhile, invite them to continue it. Online or onsite – both work fine.
- Send a follow up email with a link to a presentation or article or something that expands on a topic they were interested in discussing.
- Then, reconnect either online or to lunch or anywhere you are comfortable and safe.
- By taking lead in continuing the conversation, you are the catalyst for opportunity.
- You can form longer term relationships, which come from continued networking.
- Hold yourself accountable
- Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up!
- Each conversation presents another opportunity.
Forbes also told us how NOT to network. 5 topics you should never discuss while networking are:
- Politics and current events
- Details about your personal life
- Work complaints
- Things you find stupid
- How drunk you are
Basically, keep it positive and focused!
Networking comes easier to some people. However, it is important for everybody, even if you’re shy. It requires preparation and practice. Don’t let fear limit you – get out and network! The more you do it, the easier it will become.
So, let Three Square Market be one of many voices telling you to, “Network, network, network!!”