Inspiration

3 tips for effective networking

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I have often been told I am good at networking. It is meant as a compliment, but I cringe when I hear it. I like people. I attract good people. I love to introduce people to each other. But it’s the word itself that makes me cringe. Networking … eek.

Networking has a bad reputation

The term “networking” has developed a negative connotation over time, mainly because it has become associated with fake relationships, i.e. relationships with people purely to get ahead in your career, or relationships to increase network numbers (social networks included).

There is a distinct lack of quality in the relationships and within these networks, therefore I don’t think of what I do as networking. I think of it as making sincere and authentic connections with people that excite me and inspire me.

Networking is personal

Recently a friend from Munich introduced me to her friend in Warsaw via text, suggesting we meet the next time I was in Warsaw. We had both lived in Toronto for a time and she thought we would hit it off – and we did. A few weeks after we met I emailed him to check-in and see if his baby had arrived. Two months later and we are now discussing doing business together, just because we enjoy each other’s energy so much. That’s networking to me.

I believe a network is personal, it requires us to genuinely care and be interested in the other individual. Maybe it isn’t a new baby you discuss, but rather a project, an idea, or an experience. Just the mere fact you remember what engaged you both, and bring it up the next time you chat, will show sincerity and deepen the relationship.

Three go-to methods for networking effectively –

1. Quality, not quantity

It is not a numbers game. If you are contacting people for the sake of improving your LinkedIn profile or to brag about who you know – stop right there.

First of all, people see right through it. Secondly, anyone you develop a genuine chemistry or relationship with, is important and worth having in your network. Whether that person is the CEO of a major corporation or the waiter at your local restaurant is irrelevant, they are your network. And you never know what that waiter might be working personally; you might have an opportunity to help the next Richard Branson get an idea off the ground!

Don’t judge people by their social status, get to know them, and if you click with each other add them to your network.

2. Authenticity, not acquaintances

A valuable network comes from investing in your existing relationships, and building genuine relationships with new people you meet. How? By having a real conversation.

Artificial conversation at a surface level “How are you? What do you do?” is useless to everyone, but discussing things you have in common is going to interest you both. Chances are you are meeting in the context of a conference or an event so there is already a common interest. Once you start talking you’ll quickly gage if you have common ideas or are interested in the same things. That’s your starting point.

It doesn’t matter if you are introverted or extroverted for this process. Introverts will have longer deeper conversations with one person, extroverts will have shorter conversations with more people, but both provide the opportunity to develop relationships. Your job is to remember something personal or something that clicked about every person you meet.

3. Connections, not casual intros

Reciprocal relationships are the strongest, the most beneficial and the most rewarding; they are a constant exchange of ideas and information. You are looking for long-term meaningful connections with people you are genuinely interested in, and you want to know a year, two years, five years, or ten years from now.

Once you have meaningful connections, expand your network by expanding theirs. But don’t introduce people without first having permission from both contacts, and don’t make connections between people unless you can see a clear benefit or correlation in their interests. Take time to curate your relationships, to ensure you gain value and give value in every relationship developed.

The satisfaction you feel when you introduce people who click, develop relationships, and create value for each other is brilliant. Aim for that. And trust me it will come back to you.

Bonus tip: Create your own network events

I don’t like networking events with strangers; they end up an exercise in exchanging business cards. I do like networking events that are set up by one person and their network of genuine friends or colleagues.

My women’s network in Munich started purely from lack of time. I wanted to see all the amazing women I knew, but had only two nights in town, so I booked them all for the same evening. They enjoyed meeting each other so much they asked me to set it up again and now it’s been going for a year. They have advised each other on career challenges, and created friendships beyond mine, which is terrific and very satisfying.

Consider setting up a network event where you can invite all your terrific contacts and introduce them to each other, who have ideas they want to discuss, and businesses they want to create. There is no better proof of relationship quality, authenticity and connection, than inviting your network to an event and them actually showing up!

As Brian D. Evans would say “Remember: at the end of the day, people do business with friends.”

So get out there, meet interesting people who you want to spend time with…and build your network.

About Raj Hayer

Raj Hayer is a Leader. Advisor. Nomad. Raj is a management professional with over 25 years of experience. She is currently a consultant for innovation and change management initiatives holding a Global Executive MBA, an MBA, and Bachelor of Commerce, as well as project management (PMP) and motivational analyst (MSA) certifications. She facilitates workshops through Mayfly, a company focused on leadership development, committed to improving corporate culture and increasing employee engagement. Raj believes that every individual wants to add value through their work and life, and this is what motivates her to mentor and coach individuals. Her passion is in building networks, building community, and ultimately helping others succeed.

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