How to Win at Networking
Does the idea of networking make you cringe? Are you envious of people who can easily reach out to anyone in their network, and consistently get meaningful results from it?
Not everyone is born with a natural ability to create connections with others. But the good news is, these are skills that can be learned—and you can discover how to become really good at it. I’ve put together my top seven tips that you can use to successfully develop relationships with your contacts…and help you to win at networking.
- Practice a Networking Mindset
You know when you wake up in a bad mood, then everything that happens and all the people you interact with seems to feed off your negative energy? How you approach your day impacts the results you get. The same goes for networking. To gain the most benefits out of building the foundation for meaningful relationships, you have to go into it with the right mindset. When you do this over and over, it becomes a habit—and when you continuously have a positive outlook you repeatedly grow connections that are valuable. As F.M. Alexander so eloquently put it: “People don’t decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.”
- Communicate Like a Connector
The best networkers know how to communicate effectively. And they are very good listeners, too. Asking “How can I help you?” and “Who can I introduce you to, so you can accomplish that?” are two excellent questions that if implemented into your repertoire can quickly put you on to a fast track of being a super-connector. And elite networkers pay attention to the answers—and then act upon the responses. Those who network well help connect themselves and others with job prospects and career opportunities and other possibilities. They shine with confidence, and people are drawn to them. We all know that one person you can call when a particular situation arises: strive to be “that person” within your sphere of influence!
- Have a Mentor
Asking someone you admire and respect to be your mentor does take courage. But doing so demonstrates your determination to become a better you. And it shows you understand how beneficial a mentorship can be, and that you know the importance of building relationships through the experience. When you choose to have a mentor advise and motivate you in your efforts to reach your goals, you’ve made an important decision to progress as a networker—and you will gain first-hand knowledge from someone who actually wants to inspire your success.
- Be a Mentor
Networking is more about giving than receiving. It’s not just focused on you, and what you will get out of it, it’s also about what you can offer and teach to others. And it’s personally more rewarding to give! Deciding to become a mentor to someone is a valuable experience that helps build invaluable relationships—and puts you on the path to networking successfully. Whether you realize it or not, we are all in a position to mentor others. Consider what Seth Godin said: “Networking that matters is helping people achieve their goals.” And understanding the importance of the connection between a mentor and mentee and what will be gained from a mentorship experience is priceless.
- Audit Your Network
For you to grow as a person, you need to surround yourself with good people. Do you find that you can’t wait to hang out with certain individuals, yet there are others you just dread the thought of spending time with? It’s important to associate with those who weigh in as positive influences in your life. Every so often it’s a good idea to do a sort of audit and give your network an assessment. It’s OK to say goodbye to those Debbie Downers and people who suck the energy out of a room by just walking into it; believe me, you will thank me for this advice.
- Take Advantage of Networking Events
Shying away from attending networking events doesn’t necessarily make you a bad networker, but it does make you miss out on opportunities. As Woody Allen famously stated: “80% of success is just showing up.” When you do go to these gatherings, or plan one yourself, you give yourself the chance to build connections…and the occasion to bridge relationships between those who can benefit from each other. “The true value of networking doesn’t come from how many people we can meet but rather how many people we can introduce others to,” as said by Simon Sinek. And this is what networking is all about! A strong networker also knows how to be a great wingman at an event; they’re an excellent team player and are not just in for themselves… they help advance the success of others.
- Show Appreciation
We’ve all been told that it’s proper etiquette to say thank you after a job interview. But not everyone considers showing their gratitude when someone in their network connects them with an individual who they will significantly benefit from. Sometimes a simple note that says: “Thank you for taking the time to make the introduction,” really goes a long way. Do you know what else does? Setting up that coffee date or lunch meeting you promised. And not everyone follows up! So, when you do it, you elevate yourself as a better networker and stand out among your peers.
Don’t let networking get the best of you. Many people (including you!) may fail at it to start with, but there’s nothing wrong with that—just look at it as a learning experience and acquire the skills to do it correctly. Doing so brings your relationships up to a winning level, which is where you want to be to increase your sphere of influence and social capital. Start with these seven essential steps that I’ve outlined here, and you’re well on your way to making an impact on your network.