Everyone needs a network, whether you are a recent graduate hunting for your first job, a manager who has just scored a promotion, a leader looking for their next move or a business owner looking for the next growth opportunity.
It doesn’t matter what you do, what level you operate on, what industry you are in and whether you work for an organisation or out on your own finding the right people, with the right knowledge and the right experience is key to your personal success.
So what are the secrets to successful networking? Here are 5 key tips to help to become more masterful.
The 5 secrets that successful networking experts don’t want you to know:
- Get clear
Building an effective network starts with you getting clear on what your goals and aspirations are, how others can help you achieve them and how you can help them in return. Think about what it is that you need help on. What skills and strengths you could bring to conversation. What help and support you are looking for.
- First impressions do count
In his book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell suggests that our first impressions usually are fairly accurate and stand the test of time. Gladwell writes, ‘We thin-slice whenever we meet a new person or have to make sense of something quickly’. So what’s your first impression? Professional? Intelligent? Ambition? Sloppy? Disinterested? Make your first impression a good one because according to James Uleman, a professor of psychology at New York University ‘You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.’
- Listen up
When you are engaged in conversation be truly engaged. There is nothing worse that rubbernecking, checking out who else is in the room or what other people are doing. Building a network that works for you is about connection. Listening is an essential part of connection and listening plus connection create understanding and opportunity. Be fully present and listen to what people are really saying. Ask questions. Be curious.
- Become an action taker
If you say you’re going to do something, you must follow through and do it – this is a golden rule of networking and absolutely non-negotiable. Make sure your actions align with your words. Irrespective of whether it’s the first time you’ve met, a new contact you would like to nurture, or it’s someone who is already part of your network, make sure to take action, thank them for their time, acknowledge what you found interesting about the conversation and consider what, if anything, you can send them that relates to what was discussed. This could be a white paper, an article of interest or the link to a TED talk for example. If you have committed to an action, add this to your note to confirm that you have listened, heard and understood and are acting on it. And make sure to schedule a follow-up as its important that you don’t just connect when you ant something.
- Ask ‘What can I do for you?’
When you learn to share openly with others with no exception of anything in return, then everyone benefits. This is the principle of value exchange – giving and taking information, products or services freely to benefit both parties. It’s the two-way street of powerful networking and we all have something to share and something to give. It could be business leads, information to help fast-track decision making, an introduction. What can you trade? Offer to help. Be willing to help. Make connections that matter, share information that matters and foster a pay-it-forward relationship showing your network that giving is as good as getting.
Only when we network in the right way by choosing, connecting and cultivating our relationship are we able to build networks that matter and that work. Your network will fast-track your success, will transform your present in to your future and will enable you to maximise your personal impact. Your network matters.