When you think about networking, there are so many questions. How do you do it? What will I get out of it? Do I really have to do it?
If done right, interacting can open doors to many new opportunities. “Networking is becoming an increasingly important part of careers,” says Steven D’Souza, executive coach and author of Brilliant Networking.
Steven notes that networking can be the big differentiator when applying for a job. By building an informal relationship, you can become the first to hear about potential opportunities and develop a list of stellar recommendations. Additionally, potential employees are usually more inclined to go with somebody they like and trust.
“Today, many decisions are based on referrals, especially given by word of mouth and networking,” says Steven.
So, to get to grips with this essential skill, we asked Steven to give us his best networking tips that you and your contacts book need to know…
DEVELOP THE RIGHT MINDSET
As one of my friends Carole Stone says, “Networking is the art of making friends.” It's not about manipulation or a quick fix, but developing relationships based on reciprocity. For me, networking is the art and science of building and nurturing reciprocal relationships that help individuals or groups achieve their goals.
Most people are afraid to ask for what they want, but in the context of a relationship it is effective. People need to know you, like you and trust you before they want to help you. Make your requests specific and think about how they’re phrased. Many people ask the question 'Do you know anyone who…?', for example 'Do you know anyone who is looking to hire a new PA?' Phrasing this question slightly differently as 'Whom do you know who?' cannot be answered with a quick 'no' and forces the person to think about their contacts.
LEVERAGE YOUR EXISTING CONTACTS
We are far more connected than we think we are. Register on LinkedIn, as it is a brilliant resource for keeping professional contacts. The value of LinkedIn is not your contacts but your contacts’ contacts, so use the tool to search widely. But remember; only accept invitations from people you know!
MAKE IT ABOUT THEM
When you’re feeling shy and don’t want the attention to be on you, shift the focus the person you’re speaking to. This way, you can make yourself feel less self-conscious and become other-conscious. Think about ways that you can be of service to them, listen to ways that you can connect and remain alert for new opportunities.
SIZE DOESN’T MATTER
When networking, go for quality rather than quantity. We naturally gravitate to people who have similar skills to us. Instead, search for contacts that will add value and diversity to your networking group by befriending a range of people with different skill sets. Look for those with a different background and perspective. Though, be aware that you have to build a natural, long-term and reciprocal relationship. We’re all natural networkers; we’ve had to rely on others since we were born.
Steven D’Souza’s book, ‘Brilliant Networking’, is available here .