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Network like a ninja - Solid gold tips and tricks

Posted: 08 October 2014

We're all familiar with the old 'it's all about who you know' line. Being a recognisable, reputable professional is all about the art of networking. And it is an art. It's a skill both championed and neglected by modern professionals. Social media and such has either made us more prolific and active or disastrously lazy. Networking needs to be prioritised and maintained, over both face-to-face and online efforts.

Networking is plagued by aged connotations of schmoozing, name stickers and trading business cards. That’s still applicable in many cases but as modern professionals we need to up our game and keep on top of our networking schedule. It shouldn’t be a quick fix or once in a blue moon event - make it the foundation for developing meaningful, long term relationships.

So, how do you get past the handshakes and forgettable chat and get to the good stuff? How can you cut through the noise and make an impact? Well, it’s all about slowing down the process and mixing typical networking practices with modern means.

Don’t be too forward - Give before you get.

A huge percentage of networking is favours and exchange. So many keen networkers are too focused on what they want from this new relationship, and go in for the big ask straight off the bat. Not a great idea. Trust and authenticity is the heart of all relationships. Tread carefully and put in the groundwork before you start making requests. A small gesture goes a long way. Start off simple, why not send them a link to an article about their industry? Fire relevant talent their way and help them in their business missions without being prompted to do so.

Nurturing is the new networking principal. Be considered and unselfish in feeding your relationship. When it has a good foundation, you’ll be able to ask for favours or intros no problem.

Hint at an intro - Be strategic.

You can be strategic without being too calculated. As much as we’re trying to humanise and build relationships around professionals, we all know the purpose of networking. Strategy in this respect is more about tapping into their pot while they do the same with yours. LinkedIn connections are like a currency, and many networkers are happy to introduce you to their connection if it’s for the right reasons.

Explain your game plan to your middleman, assure them that you’re a credible third party connection. Endorsements of this nifty nature go a long way so being introduced sets a precedent, be sure to not let it go to waste.

Cherry pick connections - Quality not quantity.

A myth of networking is jump on in and card collect like it’s going out of fashion! As much as it’s great to open up your network and gather connections galore, make your relationships mean something. Stagger the when, where and why of your networking. Cherry pick people to create long-term connections with rather than just cast a net and hope for a good catch.

What can this connection do for you? How will you use their expertise? Will they utilise you as a contact? Think about the quality of your networking.

Fiercely follow-up.

As like any relationship, your networked connections need to be maintained. So many good connections fizzle out or flop because the follow-up is well below par. It’s a shame as the smallest email can make a massive impact and build a relationship than can span a business.

A simple tip is take notes. Granted don’t get scribbling while you chat, but make an effort to remember names, details of family, location or careers. Drop them an email a day or so later asking how that recent conference went or send relevant resources or links to talent their way. A casual tweet, comment on their blog, Skype chat or email is enough to be a presence in their network. Networking without following up is pointless. If you aren’t prepared to put in time and effort after cards are exchanged then don’t bother in the first place.

Get personal - People behind the professions.

This is networking 101. We all look for ways to be noticed and remembered but the simple techniques always work best. Uncovering the person behind the professional is taking that step from handshake to familiar face.  Don’t fake interest in their awards, hobbies or charity work, make an effort to find a way that you can connect beyond business. If you run a marathon for a certain charity, why not pull resources and make it a double run? If they win an award, send a card or public congratulatory tweet. People trust people. It’s a connection that can’t be created overnight, it takes time, patience and legwork.

Networking is the art of turning business contacts into career-long advocates. It’s silly to expect quality connections to A. come flocking to you or B. be developed with ease. Trust is your final reward here, and you can’t put a price or timeframe on that. Invest in perfecting this art now and not only will you have a flurry of resources and talent, you’ll come with a stamp of approval and reputation that can move business mountains.

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