Networking requires you to build relationships. You need to listen to the people in your network, offer value, and build trust. As you master the basic principles of networking, you will begin to see your network develop.
Networking requires building true relationships. Like any other relationship, networking requires time and energy. If you are not willing to put the effort into building new relationships, there is not point in networking. We will delve deeper into relationship building later, but here are some common sense methods to building relationships.
- Communicate with your contacts – Communication is necessary for any relationship.
- Avoid constantly asking for help – While your contacts are resources, being needy is very off-putting.
- Personalize conversation – Get to know your contacts and take interest in their lives.
It is easy to underestimate the importance of listening when networking. While networking requires selling yourself, it is more than a sales pitch. You need to listen in order to build relationships and network effectively. Do not just allow the other person to talk, actively listening will ensure that you truly understand what the other person is saying.
Tips for Listening:
- Keep eye contact.
- Avoid fidgeting or checking your phone.
- Ask pertinent questions, but do not interrupt
- Pay attention.
- Rephrase what is said.
As we have already stated, networking is a two-way street. You cannot simply expect your contacts to support you and share their knowledge if there is no value in it for them. You must show new contacts that you are an asset. Offering value requires you to understand your networks.
How to Offer Value:
- Identify the needs of others.
- Determine how your expertise meets these needs.
- Offer to help.
Do not over complicate offering value. It can be something as simple as helping a coworker install a new program or sharing notes from a missed meeting.
Trust is needed for every functional relationship, and networking is no different. Your contacts need to feel that you can be trusted. Building trust with new people takes time, but it is not that difficult to accomplish if you pay attention to your behavior.
Steps to Building Trust:
- Be honest – Trust is easier to build when people are honest.
- Act with consistency – Be a mindful employee every day, not just when the boss is around.
- Be helpful – Do not be seen as a self-serving coworker who is willing to do anything to succeed.
Now that you understand the principles of networking, it is time to address building your network. The guidelines to building networks require using basic common sense. They may seem too simplistic at first glance, but they are essential and must not be overlooked.
Telling you that you need to meet new people to build a network may seem like pointing out the obvious, but this step is often over looked. If you are passive about meeting people, you will never be able to build you network. Meeting people requires action; do not simply wait for people to come to you. Here are a few tips to help you expand your social circle in the workplace:
- Introduce yourself to people – This may be difficult for shy personalities, but it is unlikely that you will be introduced to everyone, particularly in larger organizations, so you must do it yourself.
- Invite people to join you for lunch – This extends to other events.
- Attend groups and functions – These groups and functions may be official or unofficial. Just take the time to meet new people.
It is easy to forget manners in our fast-paced society. Being polite, however, will help you stand out and improve the way that other people view you. It makes you appear more personable and trustworthy. You do not need to be Miss Manners to be polite. Simply exercise common courtesy. Here are a few steps that you can take to being polite.
- Make a good impression: Dress appropriately and address people respectfully at work.
- Pay attention to people: Do not pay attention to your phone or anything else while people are talking to you at work.
- Be considerate: Help other people when you can.
- Think before acting or speaking: Consider the implications of your words or actions, and avoid the workplace dramas.
No matter how hard you try to be polite, you will accidentally offend someone. It is unavoidable. The only way to move past it is to apologize promptly.
After meeting new people, it is important to follow up with them. This part of the networking experience can be awkward, so it must be approached carefully. There are different ways you can follow up with people: email, phone, face-to-face, etc. It is possible that you will have to briefly remind your contact of your last encounter, so be prepared to give a few details, Do not, however, spend too much time on this. It is important that you move forward, show the value in your relationship, and prepare the next step. There are different ways to accomplish this early on in the process.
- Suggest an article or book based on the previous meeting.
- Continue your conversation if possible.
- Extend an invitation.
Once you have followed up with your contact, it is up to the other person to respond.
All relationships have a natural development that should not be rushed. While it is important to follow-up with people, you must avoid appearing desperate or clingy. You will not be able to develop a relationship with everyone, and it is important that you are able to take no for an answer. As a general rule of thumb, you should only contact people three times before they return communication. If they do not contact you, it is best to leave them alone.
Even if your contact has followed up with you, it is important that you do not become an overbearing stalker. This requires common sense. Consider the frequency that you would be comfortable with new people contacting you. Allow this to guide you in developing new relationships.
Source: Networking within the Company workshop
River Street Consultant