Do you like to go to the social events which you will probably attend in the coming weeks? Or are you already getting sweaty hands thinking about it? At the start of my career, being rather introverted, I didn’t like to attend receptions, business clubs, etc. at all because I didn’t know how to ‘work’ them. Until my boss taught me a few very useful tricks and I gladly share some of these with you.
Thanks to this I became an active, enthusiastic and more outgoing participant of several business clubs. Over time these contacts became a warm and helpful network with many nice and interesting people with whom I exchange useful information any time I can, and it is still growing.
So here are some of the tips that worked for me:
1 Attend the first time with someone you know.
If you feel really uneasy going to an event where you don’t know anyone, check if someone you already know will be attending too. Going together with a friend who can introduce you will help you over this first hurdle. Once the ice is broken you need to meet some new people so your network starts to grow. The next time you will find people you already know and are waiting for you.
2 Be selective in accepting invitations.
Maybe you will need to try a few clubs or events to find the suitable ones for your purpose. But your time is limited, so choose wisely. It can be that it is a social obligation, such as your company's reception or the family Christmas dinner. In that case simply enjoy it. In other cases define first what you expect from a specific event and attend those occasions where you will meet people that can help you to achieve your goals. However, don’t be too selective in who to network with because you can learn from everyone and they may introduce you to other interesting people.
3 Networking isn’t about selling you but building a meaningful relationship.
You want to engage in a dialogue with people who will respect and trust you. These two elements together with regular contacts are the ingredients of a powerful professional relationship. Remember that it isn't all about you. Start asking open questions about them, listen attentively and get to know them. They will often return you the favour. So you need to have a clear idea and be able to express briefly what you would like to achieve when being asked. Value every contact whether they provide you with a lead or not. Engage, listen and help them.
4 Start giving, without expecting a return.
Be a giver, not a taker; people will appreciate this. Do research about the events you are visiting to identify the problems, issues, … the audience could be interested in. Ask people about their work and how they are tackling the problems. Use your problem-solving experiences to add to the dialogue and to show you can think in the same terms and eventually can be part of the solution. People have a natural tendency to help, and who gives often will receive. If not you have at least a good feeling that you have helped someone.
5 Follow up within 48 hours.
Fulfil the promises you made. Send a brief thank you note. Later on it can be tips, info they might find interesting, an article about a topic they mentioned, … anything that can keep the relationship alive in a pleasant way. With all the means we have today it is rather easy to keep in touch and show that you are interested in the people you met by providing them with interesting information.
Realize that networking is everywhere. When you are waiting in a line at a shop, or when attending a sports event, you are interacting with people and that is the basis of networking. If you want to become more seasoned in networking use these events to practice. Smile while you speak, concentrate on maintaining steady eye contact, engage in a two-way conversation, however brief. Soon it will feel more comfortable and natural. And you can take this confidence into your professional networking situations.
Surely add any other tip that worked for you so it can be shared.
I wish you an easy-going and useful networking in the coming weeks and lots of success and pleasure in your life and work in the New Year.