Credits to : Jeff Monday
So we have all heard of the term. Networking, the secret ingredient to success. Any business development expert, career counsellor and social “guru” prescribes it as the panache to every problem.
I have always felt that word to be so cold, impersonal and opportunistic. It doesn’t necessarily have to be.
Now we have all tried it, to varying levels of success. I personally didn’t have much success. Untill I kept trying, tweaking the methods… and failing, till I got better.
Below are a few pointers that I would recommend to make your networking endeavours much for fruitful and learning curve much steeper.
1. Know the purpose
It is best not to network for the sake of it or for the fear of missing out. Don’t be the person who sees others making contacts and thus randomly tries to strike up non-existent conversations with people at inappropriate instances. Your intentions for networking (developing business, getting a job, getting an interview or means to connect to someone else) will define your approach.
2. Know the person
Knowing the purpose leads to the next step of knowing whom to network with. Research the organization you want to associate with and filter down to the person who want to build the relationship with. The filtering usually depends on two factors:
a. Person who has the maximum influence on your requirement.
b. Person to whom you have the path of least resistance.
Once you have the person, read up and/or find out a little about the person, his or her role in the organization, views/stance on the aspect that you need assistance with and the person’s general demeanor.
3. Know your plan to engage that person
Knowing the person helps you plan exactly how to engage him/her. Utilize your existing resources to reach the person. I would say people are most responsive if contacted through an alumni network or if you are recommended by someone they know. Meeting people at conferences or business events of mutual interest and/or relevance can be helpful, as long as you can make an impression – and that depends a lot on what you have to say.
Which comes to the next important point in the engagement – preparing your questions. It has helped me to write down the questions I would like to ask the person. Focus on questions whose answers you can’t get off the internet or a simple phone call to the company. Then remove the most non-essential ones, since you often get very little time with the person. If you have the possibility of a longer conversation, arrange the questions in order of most generic building up to the most specific. It usually facilitates the conversation to build up and make the conversation engaging. It also gives you enough opportunities to structure your train of thought and lead the conversation to the topic you want to discuss or know more about.
4. Ask for recommendations
I’ve found most people to be generally forthcoming and helpful. And particularly helpful at suggesting way forward. So ask for recommendations from people you network about the best next steps. Who else would they suggest that you talk to? Would they care to put an introduction for you? Can you meet them again in a professional setting (e.g.in office) or for a longer period (e.g. coffee chat) to further discuss the matter? Is there any other source of information that they would suggest?
5. Keep in touch/follow up
Always drop a note of gratitude. A letter/email of thanks can help remind the person about your conversation and recall you the next time you make contact. It would also be wise to keep the person in the loop about the progress of your endeavour – if you got the job you were looking for or the business, let the person know. It is often satisfying for people to know that they could be of help.
6. Make friends
Be sincere in your approach. I would advice to make friends. Build relationships that will last and for that always be open to reciprocate. Offer your assistance or suggestion if you feel that it can help the person you are trying to reach out to. If not immediately, let them know your domain of expertise or influence and that you would be happy to help if the need arose.
Over my various attempts at reaching out and making new connections, the above steps have held me in good stead. In addition, I would recommend investing in making an impression. Be dressed appropriately and courteous when you are meeting someone. If you have invited the person for a drink/lunch, be gracious enough to pick up the tab. Being sensitive to the other person’s time and willingness to help can go a long way in ensuring that he or she will he happy to help you in the future.
At the end of the day, there is no absolute right way of networking. So take the plunge and learn from every encounter. Best of luck! 🙂
I find this presentation by Ouke Arts extremely well articulated about the key aspects to focus on when launching/running a company. The business models explained, though in no means exhaustive, cover the most common formats of enterprises today.
As an entrepreneur I found myself often flummoxed by the range of decisions to be made and identifying the most critical issues, the quick wins and the long term essentials. Looking back at past instances through the prism of the canvas presented by Ouke Arts, I feel I would have done things differently today. I guess that is learning. 🙂