Updated: Dec 8, 2019
Networking… ughh! Did I just make your skin crawl?
Most people seem to think that unless they are confident and extroverted then networking just isn’t for them. I’m here to tell you that anyone can be good at networking.
I bet you’ve heard the phrase “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. And whilst I don’t really agree with this fully… because knowledge is power. There is an element of this which is rings true. You can’t argue with the power of a strong professional network.
Networking is a great way to meet prospective clients, find a mentor, improve your skills and knowledge, get motivated and seek opportunity.
It isn’t just about attending traditional networking events, find a style you feel comfortable with and do that. Whether that’s sliding into someone’s DM’s or meeting for a coffee. Networking comes in all shapes and sizes. And if you have your elevator pitch right then networking can take place anywhere. For example, I write this while sitting in a soft play, the woman next to me just sparked up a conversation about juggling the summer holidays and being self-employed, inevitably we went on to share our businesses and because I have my elevator pitch down to a tee I have just potentially blagged myself a new customer. Et voila... Networking! If you prefer to make the first steps online, that’s fine. But transforming your online relationships into something tangible can make all the difference. If you’ve met someone at an event and got a good vibe, follow it up.
If big events make you want to vom, try attending smaller events. Chances are the majority of people in the room feel exactly the same as you and you will probably leave feeling on top of the world and wondering what you were so bothered about.
If you want to pick someone’s brain or you want someone in your network and you’re aware that you need them more than they need you, make sure there’s something in it for them, even If it’s just a coffee. Work around their schedule and make sure you’re specific about what you need help with before meeting. Avoid the term “Can I pick your brain” and swap it for “I’m struggling with …….. would love to hear your thoughts. Can I take you for a coffee?”
What is your networking goal? While it is important to keep an open mind, having a plan when you are networking can really help. Are you touting for business? Looking for someone to help with your website? Do you need a coach?
Touting for business isn’t always the most effective way to network, the chances of bumping into someone at an event who is specifically after what you are selling are slim. Be clear about how you can help others, what knowledge and skills do you have to offer. If you invest in your relationships people are more likely to reciprocate.