Networking is one of those things that we have to do but don't necessarily enjoy. However, it is important to grow your network because you never know just when you might need each other. Networking is about building and maintaining relationships that hopefully may become mutually beneficial. Having said that, don't be going around forging connections with selfish intentions because this will not serve you well in the future. Enjoy the opportunity to help others and be selfless, this is far more rewarding! Here are my top tips for growing your connections.
Step 1- Who do you already know?
It is easier to start with the people you already know with the aim of finding out more about their network and whether they know someone of interest to you. If you have someone who can facilitate an introduction you are halfway there. Another point to consider is, making connections with people you may not consider because you never know where they might be in 5-10 years' time. Having already established a relationship with them will make it much easier to go to them for help and guidance.
Step 2- Network online
Social media is a tool we all use on a regular basis and is also a good starting point for building your network. Browse your secondary connections on LinkedIn looking for people that at worth adding to your list of contacts. Including a message with your connection request will increase the likelihood of acceptance. It might be worth commenting on their post if it is something you can make a worthwhile contribution to.
Step 3- How to prepare
Preparation is key! Before going to an event, it is important to work out who you need to speak to, have some topics ready to talk about and think of some questions that will help you determine what their problems may be. Once you have identified their problems have a solution in mind you can confidently offer them. Remember to work the room, it may be more comfortable to stick to one person, but this will not serve you well in the long run. Another way to get noticed is to share an obscure fact about yourself as this will make it easier for them to remember you. Timing is also crucial, wait for the opportune moment to add your opinion or ask a question. This will enable you to seamlessly join the group discussion.
Step 4- Help others connect
Always keep in the back of your mind the prospect of introducing someone to one of your own contacts or even someone you have just met if you feel like they could benefit from this connection. They might repay the favour one day! Be sure to find out if you can assist the person you have just met, simply by asking them if they need your help. ALWAYS have your business card ready, don't be fumbling around for it looking very unprofessional.
Step 5- The follow up
After preparation, the second most important part of networking is the follow-up. Make sure to check in with your new connection and if you promised to do something for them, make sure you're true to your word. Regularly checking in with your new connections will help them grow and put you in a better position for when you need to ask them to make an introduction. Find out more about them, make it personal and share useful information with them.
To conclude, any connection you make is important and could benefit both parties somewhere along the way. Harness the power of social media and grow your connections. Preparation is high on your to do list! Ask yourself who are you meeting, why do you want to meet them and how can you help them? After the event make sure you follow up with your new connections and keep in touch regularly. If you utilise these 5 networking tips you'll be able to grow a meaningful and rewarding list of contacts.
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