A lot of people get networking all wrong, but that will not be you after you’re done reading this.
- What networking is
- How to network
- How to benefit from networking
What is Networking?
Networking is the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts. Essentially, networking is a skill – it can be learnt– no matter your temperament.
When building an intentional career, you will need to be intentional about networking as well.
A lot of people say that they love to meet people and that’s great – but there’s a right way and a wrong way to network.
Let’s pick out some important words and phrases from the definition of Networking shared above, in order to know what works and what doesn’t when one is networking.
– Interacting with others
– Exchange information
– Develop professional or social contacts
Networking is an action, you actually need to take a step and act. It requires you to do something and like Nike’s tagline; networking will require you to ‘just do it’, just interact with people.
Also, networking is a process. Many people get impatient when trying to reach someone for mentorship or coaching, but healthy networking is a process and it’s not advisable to skip any steps.
Mr. Jimi Tewe (a popular career coach in Nigeria) wanted to connect with a leading architect in Nigeria but he understood that it was a process. He took it a step at a time and started liking her posts online, leaving very intelligent comments and helpful information on her posts. He did this consistently for like a year and this architect took notice of him. They connected offline and have since remained friends.
Networking – the type that builds relationships that last – is a process and it has to be nurtured.
Next thing to note in that definition is that it involves interacting with others (like what Mr. Jimi Tewe did). When at an event, limit the use of your phone and take the time to interact with the professionals sitting around you. That’s why one person attends an event and says it was so boring and another person thinks it was the start of new things for them, what was the difference?
Someone interacted, another didn’t!
Next point is exchanging information.
Get their names, get their card, get their numbers/emails, but don’t kill a relationship that can amount to a lot because you forgot to exchange info. If you had a great conversation but forgot to get their information, how will you be able to nurture the relationship? Give them your contact information and get theirs, always!
Last point in the definition is to develop professional and social contacts.
Essentially, there’s a goal in mind when networking. It’s for growth, collaboration, partnerships, mentorships, etc. Anyone with a parasite mindset cannot benefit from networking because people will run from them. It has to be mutually beneficial. Keep it in mind that you’re growing your social contacts. If not for now, for the future.
Now, How Do You Network?
First, here’s how not to network – do not bombard people with information about yourself, your business or organization when you meet for the first time. It turns people off. Even when networking online, be careful not to push stuff in peoples faces. Think of it as a process. Let’s say you’re sending a message to someone for the first time, do not include numerous phone numbers, links to blog posts or ways that they can purchase your products.
Instead, offer to help them with something and nurture the conversation.
The simple act of greeting people, introducing yourself, complimenting them, and offering to help with something can get you the attention you’re looking for. Online or face to face…It works! (I learned this from Mojisola Olurotimi’s book – The Gift of People).
Here’s a template I got from John Obidi’s post a few months back.
“Hello Cynthia, this is John Obidi from the Career Empowerment Seminar earlier today. I think you’re doing a phenomenal job with “Cynthia and Daughters Enterprises” and I know you’ll continue to do more. I have some ideas that could help you increase your market share significantly. I’ve shared this with my clients and they have outstanding results. Let’s discuss it on the phone at your earliest convenience. Have a great day – John”.
He’s of the opinion that you should do this with every contact you get at events or the likes.
Now, Who Does Networking Benefit You?
Although it was stated earlier that you should make networking about the other person, it, however, benefits you as well. It’s like negotiation, it must be mutually beneficial.
When you network the right way, eventually, you’ll even get more business opportunities because once people trust you, they’ll be more willing to refer your work to others.
There’s horizontal networking, there’s vertical networking and none is useless. Don’t ever think “Oh, I’m on the same level as this one, so I don’t need her.” Or “this one is beneath me, so I don’t need them.” No one is useless.
I read that you’re only 6 people from anyone in the world. If you’re just 6 people away from meeting anyone in the world, then you ought to take networking and relationships more seriously. However, if you keep doing networking wrong, people will consistently and purposely block you from their own contacts.
Follow the right process and you’re sure to get more success with Networking than you have in the past.
All the best!