Network like a boss: tips from the top
If who you know is just as important as what you know, then the ability to network effectively is a must for your professional skill set. Even if you feel uncomfortable ‘working the room’, there are a number of benefits to being bold, including:
- Shared knowledge
- Raised profile
- Increased career opportunities
- Fresh ideas
- Support and advice
- The opportunity to form personal relationships
It’s not all about you
Tom Farley, former president of the New York Stock Exchange, once told Fortune magazine:
“When I think about my own career, I owe every job I’ve ever had to networking.”
Farley’s experience strongly suggests that networking is worth doing, and worth doing well. In a survey about networking mistakes conducted by Robert Half recruitment, one of the biggest errors was reaching out only when you need a favour. Networking means giving as well as taking. Setting yourself up as a resource and offering your expertise and advice is an excellent way to showcase your professional and personal qualities. The next time you introduce yourself to someone at a networking event, ask about their business instead of talking about yours, and tell them you’re keen to help them achieve their goals. This will make a very positive and memorable first impression.
Turn a personal connection into a professional one
Robby Berthume, CEO of agency collective Bull & Beard, says:
“If you can connect with someone on a personal level, it builds trust. And trust is the foundation of any relationship bound to have a big impact on your business”
Trust, as Robby Berthume puts it, is the platform from which every relationship is built. When you become a friend rather than a contact, people will not only remember your name, they’ll also see you as a natural ally when they need the sort of professional services you offer.
24/7 networking means 24/7 visibility
You can network 24/7 through the savvy use of social media. LinkedIn is just one platform that allows you to boost your profile and showcase your knowledge simply by posting expert articles and blog posts you’ve written, or replying to what has been written by others. By doing this, you continue to position yourself as an invaluable resource and someone worth knowing.
The Association for Team Development (ATD) says increasing your profile, and visibility, is a vital step in improving the way you network. As well as authoring thoughtful pieces on your area of expertise, you can speak at conferences, act as a mentor, or carry out pro-bono work. Being seen as an authority will draw people to you, instead of you having to reach out to them.
Do you need to rethink your approach to networking?
Writing in Inc.com, leadership coach Marcel Schwantes quoted legendary business magnate, Warren Buffett:
“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything."
Schwantes went on to say that one thing we all should say no to is, “superficial networking events in which people swap business cards and never hear from one another.”
Schwantes argues that successful people don't network. Not at a superficial level, anyway. Instead, they build relationships. This harks back to what Robbie Bethune said about forming strong connections, but also suggests you need to see networking as more than an exercise in swapping business cards and lining up at the buffet. Make it a goal to take away an idea from a guest speaker that you can apply to your business. Challenge yourself to listen closely to everyone you interact with and learn from what they have to say. If you’re not taking anything away from the networking you’re doing now, say ‘no’ to schmoozing and superficiality and map out a new strategy that will lead to results.