12 Secrets to Make Networking Less Scary and More Fun
For many entrepreneurs, professionals and job seekers, networking is the least attractive part of everyday life…and for good reason! Who enjoys talking to complete strangers anyway? Surely there is another way through which you could get ahead, right?
Well, maybe. Who knows? But the benefits of networking are well documented and you need not pass up on them, especially as the exercise can be easy!
Below are 12 secrets that will change the way you look at networking and make it the fun exercise that it is supposed to be:
Secret #1: Make Networking a Lifestyle
A lot of people make things even more difficult than they should be by treating networking as an afterthought. Rather, work it into your inner self and adopt it as a way of life. That way you are networking all the time! Every new person you meet will become an opportunity instead of a challenge.
Secret #2: Make it a Point to Relieve the Burden of Others
Imagine you’re at a conference or an event and you’re looking around. There are usually the small groups of people getting to know each other better. And then there are those people all by themselves, too busy with their phones or buried in a magazine. Forget about the façade and take the initiative-these people are usually just too shy to meet other people, and are prime targets for you to approach and introduce yourself. They’ll love you for it!
Secret #3: Make it a Point to Help People and Expect Nothing in Return
Successful networkers spend their time helping other people solve their problems. Strive to do same. Often you will get nothing in return, but you can be sure your memory will live long in the memory of those you meet.
Secret #4: Be Proud of Who You Are
You might not have an MBA or a PhD. That’s okay. This should not impact your level of success if you put the necessary work in. I dropped out of college in my third year because it just was not for me. However, I have run a successful web development firm for 17 years and employ 5 staff. And if you are open about who you are and where you come from even when meeting people for the first time, they will leave the conversation feeling like the know you very well…well enough to recommend you to someone else perhaps.
Secret #5: Do Your Research
Before an event or conference, try to do some research on the people you want to talk to. This is much more effective than winging it and allows you to find some common interests that between you and the person you will like to talk to. Common ground makes it easier to create a connection whoever you plan to network with.
Secret #6: Treat Contact Information Like Gold
Many of the people you network with are very busy, and will not appreciate their time being wasted. Once you get their email or phone number, don’t start bombarding them with emails or calling them to make small talk. Ideally, you have something valuable you can offer in return when you make that call or send that email.
Secret #7: Don’t Separate Your Personal and Professional Lives
Adopt a giving mindset in both your personal and professional spheres. This allows you to make authentic connections with people from all walks of life, no matter where you are. Even if you can’t be of help to somebody, perhaps you can connect them with someone who can. Actions like this nourish past and present connections and add value to your networking efforts.
Secret #8: Forget About Yourself and Concentrate on the Other Person
A huge part of networking is conversation, and the secret to profitable conversation is concentrating on the other person. People are more likely to be interested in what you do when they realize that you are interested in what they do. Pull the conversation towards you by asking people about themselves. Try asking them what made them get into what they are doing as their profession. That is my ultimate secret weapon for them to open up and break the ice.
Secret #9: Compliment Early and Often
When you hear of someone else’s success be quick to get in touch and offer compliments. Use this as an opportunity to introduce yourself. Rather than resenting success of others, rise up and reach for goodwill instead. After all, nobody knows what opportunities might arise from meeting someone-and that’s what networking is all about.
Secret #10: Don’t Forget about Social Media
In addition to adopting networking as a physical lifestyle, you want to adopt it online as well. In the end, social media is simply another way to connect with people and can help create connections you would never have made otherwise. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are great places to start. If you are in a field related to fashion or photography you might want to join Pinterest. Those in a field dealing with male-dominated tech may want to join Google Plus.
Secret #11: Be Open
In our day and age, those who give more are more likely to attract attention and interest. This is especially true online. Except for key proprietary secrets, lay it all out there and others will appreciate. The more people you help, the more your name and expertise will spread.
Secret #12: Manage Your Expectations
Networking entails meeting people of different types, and not all of these people are going to magically connect with you. But that’s okay. What matters is the quality of connections, not the quantity. If you are able to genuinely connect with only a few people every now and then, you can consider that a win.
Get out there! Visit a BNI Chapter, go to a chamber of commerce mixer, try out a merchants meeting, scope out an annual conference or embrace that company picnic you get invited to. And in the spirit of networking, how about grabbing a cup of coffee and getting to know each other? You can even schedule on my calendar if you would like. I promise it is not scary!