Networking: Where do I start??
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I’m not sure about the first part of that over-used statement, but the second part is most definitely true.
What is networking? Simply put, it’s developing relationships with people, which you can then draw upon for connections. Those connections, whether they’re with the person with whom you’re networking, or someone they know, can lead to business and job opportunities. That’s all there is to it. But how do I do it? Where do I start?
Some people are natural networkers. They are always making new friends, new connections and sharing information. For some people, it’s not a natural inclination and those people need to actively develop those skills.
The most important thing to keep in mind about networking is it is a two-way street. Networking only works for you if you work for your network. So with that in mind…
If you’re a beginner, make networking a regular part of your routine. Make a plan to network twice a week or so and stick to it.
You already have a network even if you’ve just started. Your network includes your family, friends, co-workers, and any and all acquaintances. Reach out to them and see who they know. Do they have contacts in the industry in which you’re interested? Do they have contacts in a complementary business? Do they know someone who knows someone?
It’s estimated that up to 80% of jobs aren’t advertised at all and are filled via a “friend of a friend”… so keep that mind when you’re reaching out.
With new contacts in hand, do a little research and find out what this person is interested in or is known for. When you reach out for the first time (and email is fine), do not ask for anything. Try to offer something, even if it’s something as simple as, “I saw where your new methodology was utilized in XXX and I’m really interested in that process. I enjoyed reading about it. Thanks for sharing.” (or something along those lines). Perhaps they respond, perhaps they don’t. But it’s a start, and remember the “two-way street” concept.
Start by offering something, then see what develops. Keep trying to make contact with people who can help you or just people who are interesting, and once a line of communication opens, keep it going.
Bottom line, people like to do business with people—people they know, people they trust. If you can build relationships with the right people, you can access almost anything.
Build your relationships just like you would for a new friend. There should be mutual give and take, and value on both sides, which will ultimately result in a trusted relationship.
So go forth and network! Stay tuned for “Advanced Networking” coming up in a few weeks.