What exactly is networking? Schmoozing strangers at a fancy lunch or dinner party while talking about golf? It can seem that way, but we promise there’s so much more!
When you’re in business, it’s important to not only sell your product, but to build your brand and make connections as well. By networking, you’re making connections and developing relationships with people that can open doors and create endless growth opportunities.
Here is some advice from what we’ve learned on the In’s, Out’s and How To’s of networking, and how it could be the key to your success!
Create Yourself – You are a blank slate. YOU determine how you design and market yourself.
Let’s start with your appearance. Who are you? What do you look like? Your clothing. Your hair. Your makeup. Results will come from making yourself visually appealing to the audience that you’re networking with. For example, think of a job interview. Both candidates have the same exact qualifications but one arrives wearing jeans and a grungy t-shirt and one arrives in a suit and tie. Which candidate will receive an offer? Whether we like it or not, people judge us by our appearance. Invest in yourself. This is the aspect that we can control. You don’t have to spend excessive amounts of money, just take the time to put yourself together.
Describe yourself for a moment. This is your chance to say “This is who I am.” What do you want to be known for? Are you articulate? Bright and considerate of the things you say and how they affect others? These are the characteristics that you’re going to express to other people. Are you acting accordingly?
Know what you want in your career and your life. Goals are your objectives, they’re what you want to do with your career long-term. Think of them as your blueprint to the future! When you determine what you want for your future, and set goals to achieve this, you’ll become more aware of the opportunities around you. Think of the store that you’ve been driving past, absent-mindedly, for years. One day you stop and visit the store with a friend and it’s suddenly on your radar. Every day when you drive by you notice it sitting there even though you’d never noticed it before. The same thing will happen with opportunities when you determine what your goals are and develop a plan to achieve them.
We all have gifts. What are yours? How will others be blessed by knowing you? Remember that networking is not necessarily what you can get from other people but what you can give. The more beneficial you are to others, the more valuable and memorable you become.
Know Your Audience – Surround yourself with people you want to be like.
Studies show that overtime you become a culmination of the 5 people that you spend the most time with. Are you thinking of your circle? This is who you’re associated with. Seek out and network with the people that you aspire to be like. Research networking groups, clubs and organizations and the charities that those people belong to and JOIN them! High profile people are involved in A LOT of charity work and giving back is a huge part of forming these relationships.
Find a cause that hits home to you; something that makes you excited to work. When you’re investing in an organization that you’re passionate about it, the relationships will come easily.
Map Out Your Plan – Let’s refer back to your blueprint.
This plan will determine what steps need to be taken to achieve your long-term goal, one step at a time. We like to think of the CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines, Arnold W. Donald. He grew up with limited income but understood the importance of mapping out a long-range plan and staying on track. His perseverance made him aware of networking opportunities and ways to grow. Now he’s the CEO of a company that owns 10 cruise lines.
Always Participate – You have to make yourself a valuable asset.
Sign up for new learning opportunities and follow through with your commitment. You’ll be remembered when you’re present and when you’re not present. Strive to be a person of integrity.
Be consistent with your commitments. Networking is all about developing relationships which happens over time and multiple connections. Consistently showing up and solving problems will brand you as someone to invest in.
Be generous with your time. In the end, no one cares about the material items you’ve collected. It all boils down to how you touch the lives of other people.
The most valuable people are those than can solve the biggest problems. Find out what others are needing; what would make their jobs and lives easier and see if you can solve any of their problems, through your own services or by referring someone you know.
Be Relatable – Listen, Listen, Listen.
Be authentically interested in others. Be more interested than interesting. It’s amazing what you will learn, and the opportunities that will come to you when you listen to other people and you’re interested in them.
Don’t dismiss anyone. You never know what a person may bring to the table, even people like secretaries and janitors may have valuable connections. Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect.
Stay connected and follow up! Invite people to lunch, reach out via email or engage on social media. Maintaining these relationships is vital.
Create a network of people that are aligned with your goals and the values that you want to be associated with. Give, more than you take, And most importantly, make a plan. Set a goal. Keep moving forward.