When you think about networking what are the images which that come to mind? Do you imagine turning up to a room full of people you’ve never met before? Everyone seems to already know each other and somehow you have to try and connect with the “right people”.
For most of us this kind of situation is confronting and therefore it’s an ineffective way to meet people. Networking can be fun if you do it in the right way. It should be about connection and done with a spirit of generosity.
It’s a matter of choosing the right forums for your style and focusing on what you can give versus what you can get. Networking functions have their place. Personally, I prefer to network with people in intimate settings.
Start with people you know
Chances are you already know some amazing people. And conceivably those people also know others you’d benefit from meeting.
LinkedIn and Facebook are great tools to keep in touch with your extended network. Reaching out to people you’re connected to via these platforms is relatively easy. They already know you and are usually open to in-real-life catch-ups.
Starting with people you know is particularly effective if you’re seeking new career opportunities. For example, previous colleagues who have moved on to new organisations can give you the low-down on how they transitioned into their new role by comparing the new company to the previous company you worked at together.
Introduce yourself to your competitors
Do you know the people who do your job for your competitors? You should. There’s nothing like talking to someone who understands your role and market. It’s also critical to succession and career planning.
Most people are open to networking with their competitors. Reach out and ask to meet. There’s enough business out there for us all to operate with integrity and generosity.
Introduce people to each other
This is particularly important at networking events. Keep an eye out for the people who are standing at the edge of the room looking around tentatively. Perhaps they are considering leaving because they’re feeling a little daunted.
Introduce people to each other. Most people are shy about saying hello first, or asking someone’s name. Take the opportunity to connect people, and do so in a way which gives both parties something to talk about.
For instance, if you introduced me to a colleague you might say:
“This is Cholena Orr, you’ve got a shared interest in building productive cultures… Cholena, this is Adrian, he’s done a fabulous job of taking our distribution business to the next level.”
It’s as if people feel the worst thing which could happen on public transport, in elevators or walking down the street is making eye contact with a stranger.
Where is the joy in walking around with a passive face, looking at our phone to avoid conversation or at a pretend spot across the street so we don’t have to acknowledge each other?
Say hello first and most people will say hello back. You just need to say it first. Smile first. Introduce yourself first. It actually takes less energy than avoiding eye contact. No one will think you’re crazy. They’ll find your friendly attitude refreshing.
Find a way to make networking fun and do it your way.
Calls to action:
- Use the productive relationships scale to define your work relationships.
- Identify the preferred thinking styles of your key relationships.
- Identify the preferred communication styles of your key relationships.
- What’s your preferred communication style?
- What changes in approach will you make to better influence stakeholders?
- What’s your ideal networking strategy?
Habits to work on:
- Regularly reflect upon your relationships and how you can make them more productive and warm.
- Determine a networking strategy (e.g. one coffee with someone in your network per month) and execute on it.
Let me know how you go.
Keep moving forward,