People typically attend networking events when they are seeking job leads, exposure to the employer market, connections, referrals, or ways by which to grow their own business. Those who give more than they get back, going beyond self-centered thinking, while choosing to be helpful to others in the network, tend to also be the ones who develop the healthiest and most genuine networking relationships. To be successful in the art of networking, there are a few helpful methods and approaches to observe.
Veteran networkers can pretty easily detect someone who is mainly out for themselves. Whether it is a desperate look in their eyes or a sudden loss of interest when they notice a resume filled folder, the signs of panic and inexperience can be pretty blatant. For this reason, networking should begin before there is a pressing motivation to do so. That way, the intent upon entering a network is to assist others rather than to primarily serve one’s own interests.
Having A Plan
It is important to know what exactly your value is, so it is pertinent to be clear on what you possess in terms of strengths, skill sets, talents, and what connections you are capable of bringing to help others before attending any networking get-togethers. Focus on how you can help others, immediately or in the future, and that will keep you on the path of focusing on others rather than being self-serving.
Don’t fall into the trap of only networking to land a particular job or to rub shoulders with people you may not otherwise have access to. Rather, aim to be friendly, open, and honest, forging your connections with people in relationships that could be mutually beneficial. After all, people tend to remember those who exhibit the very attractive quality of generosity.
Give Everyone Attention
Since everyone has a value, you should approach anyone you talk to as a potentially valuable ally. Keep eye contact, show interest, listen intently, and ask follow-up questions. Just because someone’s title isn’t what you think is ‘important enough’ it does not mean that they do not have valuable connections that they may be able to open to you in the right situation. You never know whose ear they have and what kind of influence they yield. When you finish talking to a person, keep them in mind before you move on to someone else, don’t just outright dismiss them.
Connect The Dots
After speaking to several people and paying close attention to what they say, you will begin to establish connections and patterns in which certain people in the room can help out the needs of others at the event. If you feel two (or more) people can bring each other value, connect them. Going out of your way to help make such connections will mean that you have established great new partnerships and ties, even if in those cases they did not involve you.
Establish Your Intent To Be Useful
Any conversation on the day of the networking event should include an inquiry about how you can be of assistance to the person you are speaking to. They might be caught off guard, as such action can be rare, and while they may not have an immediate response, they could have an idea later at which point they will reach out to you. Offer them a way to contact you at a later time, whether it is with business card information or contacting you via LinkedIn.
Follow Up, Follow Through
If you made your intentions about helping someone clear, stick to your word. Make sure to contact them after the networking event and assure them that you still intend to help. If you promised that you would make an introduction, make sure to actually follow through. Lives can get busy between work, family, and commitments, but it is important to take, even a minute or two, to follow up on the promise to connect people. Once the connection is facilitated, your role as the bridge has been served and the connected parties will move forward with their own networking. But they will both remember your role in helping them out, whether or not it forms into a fruitful relationship. For you, it will be personally fulfilling and gratifying to know that you helped.
The Power Of Networking
Believe in the power of networking and helping those in need reach out to those who can assist them. The best part is that as you rack up the ‘networking-karma’ points, you just never know when an appropriate connection will touch upon you.