Secrets of Successful Networkers
Network like a pro (and have fun while you’re at it).
For many of us, the notion of networking can be a natural and thrilling endeavor–meeting new people, hearing their stories, learning about their strengths and their passions, connecting for new opportunities and making new friends.
For others, the idea brings to mind the schmoozing tactics of multilevel marketers or the angst that comes with entering a room full of strangers.
What will I say? What will people think of me? What if I’m too pushy, or worse yet, will people feel like I’m using them?
While we all have different reactions to the idea, networking can be an important source of not only professional and personal connections, but also a channel for new ideas and critical feedback. With the right intentions and the right strategies, networking can not only lead to professional gain, but more importantly can be a wonderful way to bless others through connecting them with people that can help advance their dreams.
In its simplest terms, networking is just connecting with others with the intention of helping each other out. Sounds a bit like friendship doesn’t it? With over twenty years of building new relationships and connecting with others for mutual gain, here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way.
The Power of Story
As you meet new people, enter into conversation with a desire to listen and learn. Ask questions and dive into their story. What are their areas of interest? What are they passionate about? What are they currently learning or working on? How about academic or career pursuits? Look for areas of history, friendships, or interest that you both share.
Networking is just like any other interaction…it’s only a real conversation if it goes both ways. Be ready to share some of your story as well. Just make sure to balance out your story with a good degree of humility. There’s nothing worse than meeting someone for the first time, only to have to hear them go on and on bragging about their accomplishments or pontificating on their point of view.
Be on the Lookout
As your network grows and you continue to capture individual stories, have your radar up. Where are their intersections in your network? People with similar interests or passions? People struggling with the same question or challenge? Articles or podcasts that you come across that might be of interest? Or best of all, synergistic opportunities where you can introduce two people or organizations that might be able to help each other out.
Seek First to Serve
Many of us are familiar with the term “servant leadership.” I’d like to propose that the most effective pathway to effective networking is to lead with service as well. As in any investment, success begins with building relational equity. Flip the traditional logic and start with the question, “how can I serve this person” rather than “what’s in this for me?”
I recently had a situation where I needed a personal introduction to a senior leader with another organization in order to get a meeting. Thankfully, I had a “network friend” who knew this individual well and was in a position to make the connection. I had made numerous connections for my “network friend” over that past few years and when I approached him for some help he was not only willing, but filled with gratitude at the opportunity to offer his service to me. Embrace the opportunity to be a “Servant Networker.”
As Christians, we can see time and time again how Jesus ascribed extraordinary value to each and every person he encountered. How can we do the same for our “network friends”?
- Show appreciation in a way that is authentic and specific
- Value their time by following up and following through in a timely manner
- Value their insight by letting them know what you do with it
- Value their network but not abusing it
- Value their trust by honoring their confidentiality
Make Sure to Laugh
A few weeks back a coworker of mine was heading out of the office for a networking meeting and he said simply, “I’m going to make a new friend.” I responded with a laugh and simply said, “love it!” As you seek to build your network, remember to have fun, keep things light, laugh at yourself, and laugh together. Now, get out there and “make a new friend” and in doing so pursue the adventure of growing your network!
Written by Jeff Carver
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