Did you know that the best time of year to network is between Halloween and New Years Eve?
While the value and benefits of networking are often well understood, the art of how best to effectively network can still be a mystery for some. Perhaps you have found yourself secretly wanting to tip toe away from an awkward initial conversations at a cocktail party recently? Leadership Coach Katie Kelley offered tips today for mastering the art of networking.
Clarify Who You Need In Your Network
If you are feeling frustrated with not meeting the right kind of people or professionals-take the time to clarify for yourself, exactly who it is you want to be surrounding yourself with and research where these groups of people congregate. Clarify for yourself if you are looking for peers, mentors, referral partners, clients, friends, etc. While there is no perfect science for knowing exactly who and where each of these groups of people gather, it will behoove you to ask around to find out for example where groups of professionals who share a common passion or expertise meet, and start there. Sometimes you can find many of those groups of people at one spot, other times, you might need to prioritize who is most important for you to find.
Begin by Building a Relationship
Networking is a long term strategy for expanding and cultivating your professional and social community. It should never be positioned as a short cut to helping you get a job, a client or to the 'front of the line'. It is well known in business, that people most often do business with people they like. So, it is really critical to enter any networking opportunity or environment, primarily focused on building a relationship from the ground up, meaning finding out about the person as a whole, and not the top down, and not going immediately into a sales mode, for example. Your primary goal at the beginning could simply be uncovering what you share in common.
Always Be Genuine and Generous
#1 way to start any new dialogue is by finding out all about what makes the other person tick. Pay them a compliment and listen to what they are telling you. Some ways to start new conversations with people is by asking them why they love what they uniquely do, what kind of impact they are making with their work and most important what they need. By opening up each dialogue focused on understanding this other person and asking them how you can support them, almost always results in the same exchanged reciprocity. One of the worst offenses of networking is to feign interest in someone. If you are not sincerely interested in getting to know someone, don't act otherwise. People can sense if you are disingenuous, and then you are wasting everyone's time and also chipping away at your own integrity. Be genuinely curious and generous and the world is your oyster!
Go to a Weekly Event with an Open Mind
There is a lot of serendipity in the art of the networking, reinforcing the fact that it really is an art not a science. So, while the first tip talked about being strategic about where you network, I also encourage people to compliment that more business focused approach with networking with their own development, community or social life in mind in order to broaden their entire network. So, try to go to one event a weeka store or gallery opening, lecture, book reading, new dance class, happy hour, networking event, non-profit fundraiser. Also, give back at events like working a food bank where you end up shoulder to shoulder with people for several hours. Organize one with a strategic partner to build new relationships or strengthen existing ones. And of course you end up helping your community in the process -a win-win.
Apply the 3 Person Rule
A basic rule savvy networkers walk use when they walk into a networking event is to survey the group at a distance at first and work to connect with three people at that event and then they can leave and know it was a success. Stay open minded about how these people might come into play for you and you for them and trust that there might be a larger or smaller reason that you were brought together. When you meet someone and truly express interest in them and what they are up to in the world, they will remember you forever. You are investing not only in their wealth of knowledge, experiences and community but also in their community's community. Keep that ripple effect in mind.