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4 Simple Steps to Network like a PRO

January 27, 2011

Networking, as the name implies, is the art of “building your network.” The goal is to make professional contacts that can share their abilities with one another to ultimately lead to a mutually beneficial relationship mainly in a professional sense. 

I’ve done my fair share of networking over the past 7 years as I’ve started and launched a successful career in the advertising/marketing industry. What I’ve found are 4 principles that I try to keep in mind every time I meet new contacts to add to my network.

 1.       Genuinely care about getting to know THEM.

People want to help people who are sincere, selfless and interested in others. I am intentional when I decide to attend a networking event or to meet with someone for coffee. I make it  priority to research them, the company they work for (or own) and make a point to  learn about them before talking about myself. If you GENUINELY care about getting to know the other person you will find, more often than not, that they will reciprocate the gesture by getting to know you as well. Intentionally listening, actively communicating and sharing who you are personally and professionally will open doors of opportunity to build long lasting mutually beneficial relationships with others.

 

2.       Ask how you can help THEM.

I learned this half way through my career and wish I would’ve learned it earlier. There is something magical about the question “How can I help you?” It catches people off guard. In our self-obsessed society of me-me-me messages we are unarmed when someone GENUINELY wants to help us. (Note the capitalized GENUINELY, it doesn’t work unless you are sincere) By asking a business contact how you can help them you are inviting them into your network. You’ll be amazed at the answers you’ll receive. I’ve been surprised by the blatant honesty I’ve received from near strangers. This simple step opens the door for the question that naturally precedes from them, which is “How can I help you?” Now you have a wide open opportunity to share with them what you’d like to gain from the relationship.

 

3.       Follow up. Follow through.

It’s one thing to have a FANTASTIC coffee meeting or great networking event. But these do nothing for you if you don’t follow through on keeping the relationship intact. It’s like going on a perfect date and then never calling again. It gives mixed signals and makes the newly developed relationship awkward. So make sure to follow up right after the initial meeting. Send a thank you email, text (rarely appropriate but at times is ok) or hand written card; whichever is most appropriate for the type of industry you are in. Then follow through on the conversation. If you are able to help them with what they asked you to then HELP them. It’s hard not to reciprocate when someone does a nice thing for you.

 4.       Pay it forward.

Lastly, once you’ve got the whole business networking thing down, pay it forward by teaching your peers or mentees how to network like a pro. It’s long been said, “it is not what you know, it’s who you know.” I could write a separate blog on that very statement because in today’s competitive business environment you HAVE to be smart, on your game, driven and good at what you do… BUT there is a lot of truth to the “who you know” part of this saying. Because of this, we know that networking is a critical part of a successful career. It’s an intimidating activity for many people. So once you’ve had the opportunity to hone your skills, share them with others. They’ll appreciate the gesture and pay it forward themselves. AND THEN, we’ll have a whole community of fantastic networkers! Wouldn’t that be great?!

 Cheers to creating and maintaining productive business relationships!

-Robin

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