WE KNOW IT'S HARD TO NETWORK IN A ROOM FULL OF PEOPLE YOU DON'T KNOW. BUT WITH A FEW SIMPLE TIPS, YOU'LL SEE THAT IT'S NOT IMPOSSIBLE.
We all know that networking is key to business success. Yet many of us resist doing it because it simply feels sleazy. That would be an understandable – and commendable – response if that’s really what networking was all about. But the backslapping, transactional vision of networking is actually a caricature.
The most effective networkers aren’t going to random professional mixers and pressing their business cards on everyone they meet. Instead, they cultivate meaningful, long-term relationships based on curiosity and interest in the other person, rather than what they can immediately gain from the connection. Here are three strategies for those who find networking hard to make their networking more effective and enjoyable.
Ask for Referrals
If you want to meet other high quality professionals, don’t simply show up at an event and leave it to chance. Instead, ask your most trusted colleagues if they have friends or coworkers they think you should meet. Request an email introduction, and you can invite them for coffee or lunch. By asking for suggestions from people you trust, you’re pre-screening these new contacts and are likely to make great connections.
Don’t Ask for Favors
One of the aspects of networking that repels many thoughtful professionals is the sense that networking is really a form of using people – i.e., cultivating relationships only with those who can help your career. You can stay away from this dynamic entirely by refraining from asking for assistance from your new colleagues for at least a year. Get to know them and build a friendship first.
Focus on the Follow-Up
The sexy part of networking – the part that gets talked about the most – is meeting new people. But it’s even more important to keep in touch with the people you already know. Make a list of the 50 people who matter the most to your career. At least once a week, reach out to one of them with a phone call, email, or invitation to meet. Staying in touch will reap long-term benefits.
Networking doesn’t have to be a sleazy endeavor. By following these strategies, you can cultivate a valuable network and stay true to who you are.
Find a Commonality
It’s not always easy to turn a brief encounter into a long-term relationship. That’s why, when you first meet someone, it’s important to try to learn some key details about their lives, so that you can find commonalities. According to the psychologist Robert Cialdini, identifying something you share in common with the other person is the fastest path to making a strong first impression and forging a positive relationship. Try to ask open-ended questions so you can discover their hobbies, where they grew up, the university they attended, the neighborhood they live in now, their favorite sports team, or the like. That enables you to bond, and provides you with future conversation topics and reasons to stay in touch.