In this article, you will learn everything about networking.
I’m not outgoing. I’m not extroverted. If someone like me, who can be creative with excuses not to meet people, can do the community work we do for entrepreneurs at Entrepreneurs.ng, clearly you can network. You can meet someone and initiate a conversation.
What Is Networking
Networking and meeting people is collecting dots and connecting them. Collecting dots can be time-consuming. But you can be creative with it by meeting people around meals, coffee, etc.
A cup of coffee, tea, drink, food, etc., help people open up.
As you reflect on the dot, the dot gains context and stops being a single point of reference.
Why Is Networking Important
Networking helps connect dots that only you can see. It helps build economies, foster career growth, build businesses and communities.
When I came to Lagos in 2016 to start up a business, I only had one contact. Just one dot. He would introduce me to someone, and I would collect the dot, look for people in my network that need their service/product and connect them. I will go, “Oh, you need this; this person can do this for you. Ayo can build your website; Biodun can handle that class.”
I needed help, but I was not selfish. I knew the magic move- connecting the dots. And those relationships are still strong today. Most of the people I met then are now facilitators at our signature mini-business school- The Business Clinic.
Reasons Why You Need To Network
For Reliable Connections
You need to make a connection with someone that, if you could call them a year from now, they will be happy to hear from you. You will get together and share what exciting projects you are working on. The good, the bad, and maybe even leverage each other’s contacts for personal gain.
You Need To Have Social Capital
The more people you know who align with your goal, the more valuable your network is. But you may ask, where I’m I going to find these people? Networking can happen at a conference, a leadership program, in-line at Shoprite, at a resort when you are on vacation, or an event you discovered online.
Now, before I go on, I do not want you to waste your time in the name of networking. Don’t attend every event; attend industry-specific events; research before you attend. Because time is a valuable resource- don’t waste it.
You acquire a confidence boost from constantly getting out of your comfort zone and meeting new people. This trait will prove to be invaluable for the rest of your life.
Your Network Is Your Net Worth
Those who have a solid circle around them can always rely on it. The rest don’t have that luxury. The same circle can accelerate your growth. The more people you know, the more opportunities will come your way. So, your network is your net worth.
Strategic partnerships and recommendations can go a long way these days, and you can never have enough of those in your corner.
You may ask, what if I’m introverted? As I mentioned, I’m not an extrovert; networking is a skill that can be acquired.
7 Seven Basic Principles Of Networking
Before we move on, I will share with you the seven fundamental principles of networking. Here you go:
You Need To Do It All The Time
It means you have to be consistent. If you only do it when you need it, you’re not going to be successful, and most of the time, when you need to network, it’s already too late if you don’t already have a healthy one.
Give value first to the other person before you ask for something. It could be anything; whatever value you can provide- your time, energy, education, a favour, etc.
Give More Than You Take
Put more into the networking bank. Keep making deposits; keep making deposits before you make withdrawals. If you don’t have money in the bank, will you be visiting to make any withdrawals? Your guess is as good as mine.
You want to make sure that you are giving more, build up a bank of goodwill, you start to earn a reputation as a giver. That’s key.
It’s About Building Lasting Relationships
This is better done live. Again, it is human interaction, dialogue in person or at least over the phone, but you want to make sure that you’re spending time; the other person sees you and hears you.
Build trust by following through and doing what you say you are going to do. Whether it is to provide them with some information, make a referral, etc. You want to make sure that you are known for having a good word. That your word is your bond, that you are trustworthy.
Move It Forward
Expand their network; if the interaction between you and me dies with you, you haven’t helped me build my network. So, you want to make sure you’re thinking, “how can I help expand this person’s network? Who might be good for them to know?” Pay it forward.
Have A Plan
It does not matter if it is online or physical interaction; you need to have a plan that can be executed effectively.
We will move on to how you can network effectively online.
How To Network Online
Social media, online forums, online events are platforms you can leverage to network online. For example, I used LinkedIn to land many job interviews when studying for my master in the UK. Networking, when done right, yields results. So how do you network effectively online?
Set Your Networking Goals
What is the goal you want to achieve- educate yourself, advance your knowledge, job hunting, expand your network, expand to new markets, etc.
Whatever your goal is, you have to identify it to fill in the rest of the plan. That way, you are direct and focused.
Dive into research. Who do I know that might move me to that goal? And, who might they know who can move me toward that goal? Or who do I want to know that I think will move me towards that goal? Do I know anybody, or how can I get to that person?
This second step is about researching and trying to identify who you know, who they know, and who you need to know. Build yourself a nice list of individuals you want to connect to in a year.
Start Drafting Your Message
Start drafting the message you want to put out to them – it is not a one-size-fits-all message. But have a template, and depending on whom you are writing to, you can tweak and change a few things.
Execute That Plan
Email, phone them and see if they want to get together, whether it’s on the phone, lunch, coffee, dinner, whatever it might be. It could even be on weekends,
Pick a handful of people you want to reach out to, send them your message and give them about a week to get back to you. Everyone is busy. Follow up but know at the back of your mind that not everyone will respond to you.
That’s how you network online.
Is Networking Online Better Than Networking Offline?
Tempting as it may be to organize and live all our lives on the internet, nothing can replace meeting people face-to-face and having a good old-fashioned chat. You never get a true measure of someone if you have never met them.
And, generally, people want to do business with people they already know and like.
You never know who you will meet, who they might know or how they can contribute to finding your next job.
When meeting people physically, be yourself. That’s the most important thing. There’s no need to try to be someone else. If you want to start an authentic relationship, it’s key to first ask about the other person. And listen, tilt your head when you do so. The head tilt is a universal sign that says- I’m listening, purely through body language.
I want to give these bonus points before I go on. When meeting new people, give the meeting your best shot; improve your chances of being liked by the other party.
How To Make People To Like You In A Networking Event
Here are some ways that will increase your chances of being liked when you attend events.
1.) First Impression Matters
Appearance is important; your hairstyle, your dress style and even your nails. You have to appear professional and groomed.
You have to smile because the other person will think you don’t like them if you don’t. Even if you have difficulty smiling, have a relaxed expression.
One of the things that will help you smile is visualizing success with the new connection.
3.) Perfect Your Handshake
Your handshake has to be firm.
4.) Use Eye Contact:
Ensure you maintain eye contact. Look them in the face, or they will think you don’t like them.
5.) Use Their Names
So, if you meet someone, the first thing to do is find their name and address them by their name in the curse of your conversation.
Working on your body language is vital; we may not realize it, but we communicate with our bodies. Every gesture you make may signify something to the other person; therefore, be intentional with your expressions.
70% of jobs are found through personal relationships. Did you know? Research shows that referrals are a top source of hires, meaning that those personal relationships, they can pay off.
Important Question About Networking.
Is who you know more important than what you know?
That’s a deep one.
Networking is a skill that comes easy for some people, but it’s a skill acquired for other people, myself included.
When it comes to networking and social events, there’s nothing wrong with going alone. Putting yourself in a position to talk to new people is a good thing.
We will now look at how to network physically at an event.
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10 Simple Ways To Improve Your Physical Networking Skills.
Come With A Goal In Mind
Before now, if I allow myself to be dragged to any networking event or any event at all, I will sit there and, in the end, go as I came. I will not meet anyone new.
Right now, I have a goal in mind that I must achieve. It may be that I want to meet so so and so person, and I do my research to ensure the person will be attending the event. Also, I pledge to myself- Florence, you must enjoy this event.
Always Take The First Step
It is nice to have the ability to initiate conversations. Don’t wait for other people to take the first step. The easiest thing to say is, “Hi, are you here for The Network event?”
Don’t Be Negative
What’s negativity? Negativity is insecurity disguised. Some people will put off everyone and talk down on the event. Don’t do that. No matter how unorganized you think an event is, it’s not easy to organize events. Know that. I have hosted events, and we keep hosting events at ReDahlia.
The Network hosted by ReDahlia was a gathering of over 200 entrepreneurs in Nigeria, and that event took a toll on us in terms of time, money and other resources. So, I know what goes into making an event worthwhile.
Therefore, when you attend events, focus on the positive, spend no second on negativity.
Don’t Stay With Your Comfort Person
Let’s play this scenario- all through the event, you have not made any meaningful connection, and you meet this person you feel is nice, and there’s the temptation to sit and chat with that one person. Please don’t do it.
Don’t spend your time with just one person at a networking event. As long as you have exchanged contacts, say this “I’m going to get in contact with you at so so and so time. I’m going to meet a few other people now, and who knows, I might see you later. Have a good time.” And you move on.
If you don’t, you are also stopping them from connecting with other people. So, don’t be selfish, don’t focus on how good they make you feel. Let them go, okay. They will come back to you later.
Give First. Receive Later
Focus on giving first and receiving later. For instance, offer to connect them to someone they want to talk to. Offer to help them with something because when you do, you prove to them that you don’t just have your interest at heart.
Nobody wants to connect, network or meet people that want to focus on their own needs. It’s okay to be open about your own needs, of course, but don’t do it at the expense of the other person.
Magic Move – Connect Others!
This is a master move for a networker. This is how you can earn good points. And it will make you feel good as well.
The magic move is to connect people. By the way, it is a great way to leave somebody. You can say to them, “You know, I met someone that I think you should connect with earlier. She will be a great person to talk to because I think you are in the same field. Let me introduce you to them”.
And you go ahead and introduce them. What happens next?
They are both going to thank you; they will remember you, and they will be grateful for what you have done for them. And that will set you up nicely in the future to ask a favour of them when you connect with them again.
Be Curious About Mutual Benefits
Always be curious as to what benefits you can get from each other. Curiosity is your friend.
If you have a curious mindset, you want to learn what people do, how what you do can fit in with that, and how you could collaborate.
What is the benefit? That’s the profound question that everyone is there for. So, be sure that you focus on the mutual benefits and not just on your benefit because that’s how you build trust with somebody. If you communicate that benefit, it builds trust and a sense of reciprocity with them.
Some of us are talkative. Jesu! Some people can go on and on about themselves.
Nobody wants to listen to someone talking for three minutes without getting a chance to speak themselves. The one thing you don’t want to become is the boring person that goes on and on about themselves.
Think of the game of football or tennis; the conversation is the ball. Sometimes, the ball is in the opponent’s court, and it goes back and forth. The more you can switch it back and forth, the less likely, you have to bore someone to tears.
It’s much easier to get into another conversation when you move. So, keep moving. It will not be easy if you stand there and wait for someone to come to talk to you. It’s easier when you are moving.
Once you have finished a conversation with someone, move. As you move, you will make eye contact with someone else you might want to speak with, and you can start another conversation.
Enjoy The Process
I did mention earlier about pledging yourself. So, enjoy the process and take on all the lessons. Positive energy all the way.
What Is The First Step To Networking?
What am I here today to ask of you?
All I’m asking you to do is to schedule that tea meeting or attend that event. And even if you are shy to initiate it, say YES to that invite today. Our destinies, the fulfilment of our purposes in life, lie with each other.
Every person here knows someone that someone else should know. And you are the only person who can make that connection because you are the only person who can see that connection.
To you, it’s common sense. But, unfortunately, common sense is not common. Remember that.
So, let use your common sense, and your common sense and your common sense to collect and connect those dots—two cups of tea, two bottles of drink at a time.
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