I get it — networking isn’t at the top of everyone’s to-do list and can be difficult.
On the whole, it can be time-consuming, be downright awkward in the moment, and — often depending on your personality — incredibly exhausting.
I am a shameless networking fan. I very much thrive on that people-to-people connection and get my energy from other people. But I often need to recharge alone occasionally, something which I found out this week where I hid myself and became a sofa burrito.
“Instead of better glasses, your network gives you better eyes.” -Ronald Burt
Communicate better. Engage more effectively.
Networking is the art of being able to interact with others, in order to exchange information, develop personal or social contacts and relationships. To be honest, networking is a very deliberate and conscious act; and I truly believe that it does not happen by mere accident.
The power of human connection cannot be understated when it comes to networking. As Keith Ferrazzi, noted in his book Never Eat Alone, you can utilise the power of human relationships for mutual benefit to demonstrate that effective networking starts with thinking about the needs of other people. Rather than say, selfishly pursuing your own agenda in such interactions.
Greater human interactions
Networking at the core is building solid personal connections to exchange information and learn from others. This can be done offline and online, but it’s an extension of communication.
As the founder of a female networking group in London,Growth & Grace Collective, objective is to connect, inspire and empower individuals. An important part of this network, is the desire to assist women in building their confidence when networking and to step out of their comfort zones.
A large part of this is building connections with people, which are genuine, and giving back to your network. A good way do this is to come with a clear ask of the connection. This relates to a clear idea of what you want from that person, and what you need help with. You don’t want to waste your time right? Well, why waste the time of others?
“Pulling a good network together takes effort, sincerity and time.” — Alan Collins
Making that lasting impact to others.
There is really no disputing the sheer power of a strong professional network. When done well, networking will not only help you with your job search, personal/professional development as well as opportunities throughout your whole career.
One of the things I think has made me become an effective communicator is coming to terms with being comfortable with uncertainty/the uncomfortable. Every time I have faced something difficult and it was uncomfortable, I have sought to push through that feeling to examine why and also take more risks.
For example, I found learning languages in a formal school setting very difficult, and always wanted to study an Asian language — what did I do? Sign myself up to do a degree in the Korean language. I did this in order to overcome my fear of not feeling good enough. To get over my fear and grow.
To maximise the impact you have on others, it is so important to become comfortable with being uncomfortable under the lens of networking. By being openminded, engaged and unapologetically yourself when meeting people, you will be able to connect better with others.
Another core point to note is also the power of digital connections/platforms. There are various platforms that offer the opportunity to network without the limitations of geographical/time boundaries, which I find crucial. LinkedIn, in turn, offers an unparalleled advantage in networking in a remote sense. You are able to network with anyone who has a profile, irrespective of country, timezone or language. I personally try to invest a good amount of time my online network.
“My Golden Rule of Networking is simple: Don’t keep score.” — Harvey Mackay
Your networking 8-point plan, check.
Good practice in networking relies upon a few key principles:
- Thinking of what you have to offer others — how can you help/advise/input;
- Identifying the best person to talk to at the event;
- Thinking about what you want from the relationship — come with an ask;
- Being prepared to listen to others — asking open questions proactively;
- Being generous with your time and attention — think of where you can add value;
- Taking a risk sometimes — speak to people of all levels;
- Going outside your comfort zone — don’t just stick to what you know;
- Always following up connections made within a couple of days.
People do not remember what you said, they remember how you made them feel in that exact moment. That is what human connection is all about.
The Growth & Grace Collective has been founded to support women in building their confidence, provide them with a platform to share their experiences and opportunities to network. It is not industry specific, but seeks to bring women who are in very different industries together. It seeks to raise women up out of social mobility issues as well as stripping away the financial burden of networking and professional development. We hold regular events to build connections, workshops to discuss relevant topics, to increase the development of our ‘softer skills’ and speak about issues that matter.
If you are interested in attending our events or partnership opportunities: