Many people do not like to network. Networking is mostly misunderstood as unnecessary small talk, with at least one of the participants feeling at times like they’re speaking with Charlie Brown’s teacher…”wah wah woh wah wah.”
After all, people have different personalities, and while networking is natural to some, others may find it extremely intimidating. Networking skills are, however, crucial to anyone intending to progress whether for career or business development purposes.
There are some who find networking as a practice lacking authenticity… asking for favors, delivering a canned speech, and even trying to prematurely close a deal because someone nodded their head. On the other end of the spectrum, are those that do not believe the goal is to sell, but instead, to collect as many business cards and email addresses as possible. Sadly, they miss the point.
So, what is Networking?
“Networking is the sharing of information or services between people, businesses, or groups. It is also a way for individuals to grow their relationships for their job or business. As a result, connections or a network can be built and useful for individuals in their professional or personal lives.” Wikipedia
- Networking refers to the process by which professionals establish meaningful relationships with one another.
- Think of it as creating an invisible web of connections between you and other people with each strand of the web serving as a two-way conductor of information and assistance.
- This web is a living entity; it stays alive if you continue to feed it by making connections with others and maintaining those connections through continued interaction.
- If you make a connection, but stop interacting with it, that connection disappears and your web shrinks.
- The goal is to have a large, healthy, web of individuals to share information with and tap for assistance when necessary.
The important piece of this to remember is that networking is a two-way street; you do not just approach networking connections when you need something, the relationships you create must be nurtured and maintained over time.
How to Network…
- Networking is a process that consists of personal branding, preparation, taking action, and maintenance.
- The process constantly cycles and recycles as you build your personal brand.
- The first step of effective networking is creating a personal brand for yourself.
- When you think of the word “brand” what does it bring to mind for you?
- “Branding” is used in the world of marketing and sales to help companies effectively sell their products to target audiences.
- Now, think of yourself as a brand.
Think of a product you really like and the kinds of messages you see in commercials, social media, etc. from the company that sells that product.
- How does the company get across to you the quality of their product?
- What is special about that product that makes it different from other products?
- What kinds of words and feelings do you associate with that product?
- A “Personal Brand” is exactly the same thing, only in this case it is how YOU are marketing YOURSELF to the professional world.
- When creating a personal brand, you need to consider the image you want to present to the professional world, the messages you want to send, and what makes you special and different from others.
- Targeted selling returns higher sales, and in this case, we are targeting your future referral network and potential partners/prospects/employers.
Your thoughts about YOU…
When creating your personal brand, ask yourself:
- What are my strengths and what am I already known for?
- What am I passionate about and what sets me apart from others?
- What would I like to accomplish in my business?
- How do I define success?
- What do I want people to remember about me?
Personal Brand exercises…
Here are some exercises to get you thinking about your personal brand:
- If I had a slogan, it would be: ________________________
- If I had a logo, it would look like: _____________________
- Some words that describe me are: ___________, ___________ and ___________.
Your Personal Philosophy
- Your personal brand is your personal philosophy toward work and professional life.
- Once you have an idea of what your personal brand is, incorporate it into how you speak to others professionally, your personal pitch, your business card, email communications, social media etc.
- Your personal brand will continue to evolve and develop, but remember, always be consistent with your messaging so that others remember who you are, what you stand for, and what value you bring to the professional world.
- Networking does often take a certain amount of preparation prior to making connections.
- When preparing to network, take a look at and refine your essential networking tools: brochures, flyers, business card, social media platform, elevator pitch.
- These essential networking tools should be polished and ready to present when networking.
In today’s world, social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. serve as outlets for individual expression as well as an easy means of connecting with others.
Be mindful of what you are communicating through your social media, intentional about the content you contribute, and vigilant in terms of security.
- Social media is also a fantastic networking tool!
- Think of how many people you are connected to through your social networks online.
- Each one of those first, second, even third-degree connections could be a useful networking contact.
- The key to online social networking is to monitor your presence, contribute professionally to the online community, and connect while communicating your personal brand.
A Strong Personal Profile…
- Your personal profile is a snapshot and summary of you that is available to EVERYONE online.
- Because privacy is never a guarantee online, you must be mindful and intentional with the content you post.
- You do not have to have a profile on every social media website out there, but LinkedIn is mandatory for professional pursuits.
- For your professional profile, include sharp profile and cover photos, a inviting subject line about YOU, a detailed summary, and other relevant information regarding your business experience to make it easy for others to search for and find you.
Networking is your lifeblood for a long-term success. It’s often been said that one’s net worth is their network. Yet, many give it a half-assed attempt. Why do you think that is the case when effective, diligent networking produces positive results? If not immediately, then at some point, for sure.
Have a great day. Make it happen. Make it count!