Welcome to the Networking Nebula - What keeps the art of networking shining bright?
Posted: 06 May 2015The ability to really network is a true talent. Yes, anyone can shimmy into a conference room and make a good impression but it’s the pre-prep and post-performance that set the novices aside from the ninjas. Times change and tools burn out but the art of networking will never go out of fashion. People need people to succeed and grow, it's that simple. What isn't always so easy is to commit and invest in this awesomely valuable act.
Networking is one of the only recruitment favourites and career kings that keeps on giving. It’s evolved from corporate cattle sheds to digital arenas, where networkers need to engage more in genuine connection than card spamming. It’s always a good idea to check in with the good old fashioned principles and best practices of networking. After all, modern networking isn’t about cashing in on connections from the off; it’s about gaining new insight into industries and trading in value. So, what’s today’s network pro look like? What questions underpin their plight? And what are the real awes of the land?
The Profile of a Networking Pro.
The classic Rolodex has undertaken a pretty crazy makeover. Gone are the days when you’d take part in a few annual events to top up your pool, nowadays networking is a 24/7 affair. This is both a blessing (if approached correctly) and a burden (if navigated poorly). There’s no template or cookie mould for the form that networking can take as it’s everywhere and everything, but there is some killer characteristics and best practice prompts that can steer you towards success.
There’s always some pretty juicy questions at play. It’s about more than studying what matters to networking as a whole, it’s also about always considering what personal, industry-focused and tool-centred queries can alter the impact of your networking prowess.
An expert networker has an unquenchable hunger for food for thought.
- What makes a connection worthwhile?
- What makes a contact a keeper?
- Does the medium dictate my networking approach and practice?
- How can I transform a contact into a connection and nurture a real relationship?
- How can I define and deliver my value?
- What personal qualities do I need to project to win over my networkees?
The old mantra ‘just be yourself’ is a nice idea but it isn’t always the safest route in networking. If you’re patient, observant, genuine and engaging person then your ‘real self’ is pretty darn great but if you’re an opinionated over-talker, you might be best checking yourself before you wreck yourself. Excellent networkers know what personal attributes they can utilise to spark a connection, as well as what ideal characteristics can be tapped into to win over a particular connection. There’s a few key over-arching personality pluses that are universal winners.
Share your goals, dreams and value as a human being not just professional. Too many networkers go in for the favour kill without setting a context or trust down as a foundation. Share your hopes, issues and values and be interested in what makes your new connections tick. Openness is infectious, if you speak up so will your contacts.
- Introvert vs. Extrovert.
Introverts are often pegged as shy or unpassionate - both are wrong assumptions. Many introverts are great listeners and curious creatives and that can lead to them making more meaningful connections within their network. Loud, excitable and animated networkers can often come across as inauthentic or ‘playing the game’. Don’t try to be something you’re not. A consistent character builds trust and we know what an important role that plays in networking.
- Thought leader.
Networking is all about value - how can I help you achieve your goals? As a thought leader, you’re in a better position to sell that value and muster a unique sense of credibility. People gravitate towards leaders, influencers and mutual value holders so be known by name before you get hit the ground networking. Remember, the best network ninjas do their research so have something out there for them to connect with you over.
There’s no replacement for simply brilliant practice. Any networking pro doesn’t let their networking technique go stale. In short, good networkers adapt and evolve their performance to their setting, surrounding personalities and goals of the day.
These seasoned specialists get creative with the staples of good networking practice but they always stay true to their value.
- Keeping the conversation going.
It’s bad practice to bleed your contact dry and flit. Not only do bad reputations travel fast but you never know how closely linked your most valuable connections are. Once you’ve met a new contact, tread carefully and with consideration. Create a relationship pattern - meet, follow up, share value, request help. Look beyond the professional worth a connection holds and uncover human, personal reasons to maintain a relationship. It’s these factors that should drive and humanise your connection.
- Mix mediums.
Yes we all know the winning reasons to perfect your LinkedIn use and social shenanigans but don’t ditch offline efforts. Apply the same vigour, preparation and creativity to both your online and off affairs. A professional can’t live on profile pics and logos forever, people remember faces and relate to a presence. Conferences can still be a great place to make a meaningful connection as long as you choose carefully and set some realistic expectations before you go. Why stress yourself out by demanding you meet 30 new connections? Trust in your gut and enjoy the experience.
- Sabotage small talk.
Let’s face it, meeting new people can be tough. The threat of the awkward silence or dead air can lurk over your shoulder when that face-to-face opp arises. Don’t feel like you have to stick to the humdrum, typical ‘hello, nice to meet you’ chat. Instead of asking them their company name and role veer towards a personal like. This is where research can save the day. Share your goals and encourage your networkee to open up and embrace this breed of conversation. Plan a few ice breakers before you leave the house, preparation is everything after all.
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