Published 18 October 2017 Category: Compass Tips, SMEs, Entrepreneurs, Startups, Business

Networking Tips For Starters

The whole process of “professional development” can be quite complex and intimidating. For introverts and newbies without professional connections, it can feel downright unfair.

But, as the old saying goes, “it’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” Networking can be your key to success - granting you access to a host of opportunities with jobs, investors and even customers. And, thanks to a host of advances in technology, the playing field has been leveled. Anyone can build connections and grow their network, so long as they invest enough time and resources in the right strategies.

There is no recipe that will guarantee you success in developing your network. You are far more likely to want to give up because of all your failures throughout the process. But as long as you keep the right attitude and expectations, you are certain to learn something (about both yourself and others).

Here are a few tips for starters.

1. Be yourself
Before we dive into the tactics or the tips if you will, there’s a virus going around the professional world today, and it’s rooted in fake and superficial behaviour. Everyone is putting on a facade, trying to be the person they think other people will like. What they do not realise is that what everyone really wants to see, (whether they are on LinkedIn or at a conference), is real people.

Human beings enjoy talking to other human beings, not spammy ads or built-up personas. We want real, living people.

2. Be direct and honest
A lot of people seem to believe that to be a good networker, you have to impress everyone else in the room. While you do want to be memorable, lying to get there is not the best strategy. It’s generally easy to spot a liar.

3. Build relationships
Often, professionals make networking seem transactional. The reality, however, is that building your network is about interacting with other humans. It is relationship based, not a sales product.

4. Meet in person
Establishing connections via email is one thing, but actually getting together face to face takes the relationship to a different level. Take advantage of networking meetups or events to get to know people. These offer opportunities to quickly grow the number of deep connections you have in a short amount of time simply by sitting down for coffee with new people.

5. Show up early
If you are attending a networking event, spend the extra 5 minutes and get there early. This does 2 things. First, it shows that you care. People who are prompt demonstrate that they are prioritising whatever it is they are showing up to. Second, it indicates that you are organised.

6. Provide value for free
Once you’ve ditched the cheesy sales pitch, realise that everyone online and at these events is selfishly looking for things that further their own careers and companies. And there is nothing that these people want more than free resources! So start providing others with value, for free.

It does not have to be anything massive, and might be simply a strategic recommendation or tidbit of advice. Investing just 5 minutes of your time to help someone else could pay dividends in the long term.

7. Take notes & have specific questions
Jot down a few notes. Come with a specific, concise question and you’ll find people are 10 times more likely to help you out. After Try to remember small details that the other person shared with you. Remembering simple things like what they like to eat or where they like to travel can become important bits to use in later interactions.

8. Follow up
Another great way to show that you care about the people you meet is to send a simple follow-up email. Using any notes or pieces of information that you remember, write an email that includes your appreciation for what they had to say and perhaps ask a follow-up question.

9. Have fun
If you are not having fun in the process, and building relationships with people you actually enjoy spending time with, then perhaps you are going about this in the wrong way. People like to hang out with people who are smiling and having fun. Just try it - a smile doesn’t cost you anything!

And if you're still a bit edgy about networking, business suits and elevator pitches, here are some tips on extracurricular networking options and how to navigate networking events before you jump right in.

10. Always remember where you started.
Months from now, when you have gotten your dream job, built out a massive network or have started your successful business, remember where you started. When you are standing on a stage talking to thousands of people, remember that not too long ago you were one of those people.

Just because people do not have the fancy titles or recommended experience does not mean they are not worth talking to. Take bold bets on people out of a spirit of friendly helpfulness, and you’ll find yourself paying it forward!