If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times–networking is vital to getting ahead in your career. While this may be the case, there are still many mistakes people make and tricks they have yet to try.
“Networking is all about building relationships. If you want to effectively network you need to focus on laying the foundation for a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship,” explains Mark Sieverkropp, author of Project: Success. “In order to do so you need to discover what is important to the person you are networking with—what is their motivation? What are their hobbies? Why do they do what they do? Next you need to have a plan to follow up. The best connections in the world will do nothing for you if you don’t follow up after meeting them.”
Acing Networking On Social Media
Social media has changed the way we network, and if used correctly it can be a great tool in building your contact base. “Connect on the social sites that you are most relevant to your networking objectives. LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with over 300 million members in 200 countries around the globe. However, there are other sites that can be used as a professional social networking tool,” Jacqueline Twillie, author of Navigating the Career Jungle: A Guide for Young Professionals, points out. “For example, if you are a blogger, Twitter may be a good forum to connect on. If you are a photographer, you may want to connect on Pinterest and Instagram.”
And don´t overlook Twitter. “I have actually had the most luck networking with Twitter,” says Sieverkropp. “Twitter allows you to connect with people you would never connect with otherwise. You can interact with them in a very relaxed setting and build good friendships and relationships. I set up lists in Twitter so I can keep track of people who I am wanting to develop relationships with. This allows me to see what they are tweeting and respond to those tweets in order build rapport or share those tweets with my followers, which is a huge way to add value to someone.”
Make your presence known. “The two best ways we have found to network via social media are: 1) To author valuable, thought-provoking, original content tagging other thought leaders regarding how the information can assist them in their profession in some way, and 2) To retweet/regram/repost content from industry thought leaders with tags to them,” says Olivia Scott, founder and principal consultant, Omerge Alliances.
Tips For Effective Networking
Know what you want: Have a networking goal, plan. “Create a networking objective, decide what you want to achieve as a result of networking,” advises Twillie.
Be selective: Choose the places and events that will best suit your networking objective. “Select events that will help you achieve your networking objective,” says Twillie.
Gather intel: If it is possible, research the people attending the event so you can better formulate questions and conversation topics. “Research the people who will attend the event beforehand,” suggests Scott. “Often times, there is an event attendee roster, or online attendee access. I have seen people come to events ready to network, having full knowledge of my background and how our connection can benefit both parties.”
Have a conversation: Networking isn´t just about handing out your business card. It´s about developing a rapport with someone new. “Listen to the story of others instead of being so quick to give your verbal business card pitch,” advises Froswa’ Booker-Drew, author of Rules of Engagement: Making Connections Last, a workbook for women on networking.
Networking Mistakes To Avoid
Inaction: You want to network, so do it. Venture out and meet new contacts. “Many people will only talk to the people they know or the first person they meet. Effective networking requires you to meet new people,” notes Twillie.
Being a user: Networking is a reciprocal relationship. Each party is looking to gain, so don’t just take. Give as well. “Failure to build a mutually beneficial relationship. No one likes to feel as if they are being used. When networking, find ways that you can help the other person so that you can develop a mutually beneficial relationship,” says Twillie. Adds Scott, “Show genuine interest in how you can help others as well. Many times when networking, the motivations are strictly selfish, and people feel that energy. I have found that when I relax while networking and find out more about others, including how my experience can help them, they are more open to sharing with me. When the motive is strictly self-motivation with no regard for others’ agendas, the networking exchange is often less productive.”
Skipping the follow-up: In order to build a great new contact, you must keep in touch. “Not following up is by far one of the biggest mistakes I see in networking. The true magic of building a relationship happens when you have a chance to get to know the person on a one-on-one level,” says Twillie.
Not looking at the big picture: There are many things that can develop from a networking experience. “Networking doesn’t always result in a business deal,” says Booker-Drew. “It really could become a great mentoring relationship, friend or someone who introduces you to that individual who can help you in a greater way. Be open to the possibilities.”
Not easing into it: Don´t “bum-rush” a new contact. Ease into your relationship. “A mistake is trying to sell to the person right away,” says Sieverkropp. “I get folks all the time on Twitter that follow me and right away I’m getting a message asking me to check out their book or their blog or their PDF. You have to build rapport with folks before asking them to do something.”
Not being confident: If you’re shy or hesitant, you will not be able to develop new contact through networking. One ways, says Scott, to be confident is to be armed with as much information as possible. “People should be sure to read industry trades and world news before attending an event. Doing so gives them the confidence to transact in their sessions about things other than the weather or what they need from the other person,” she says.