How to Network (the RIGHT Way)

July 26th, 2020

 
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Well, maybe. Actually, you do need to know a lot and work hard to get ahead. That’s a given.
 
But having a strong network is also important. Whether you’re trying to make new connections, looking for different opportunities, or just want to advance your career, your network is key. So you need to be deliberate with how you build and maintain it.
 
Here are some things to think about as you do.
 

What networking is all about

There’s a common misconception that networking is about going to as many events as possible and collecting a fat stack of business cards that you then squirrel away in your desk to call on later. Okay, yes, this is partly true. You should be going to events and meeting people to get your name out there (once it’s safe to do so of course). But that’s just the start.
 
Effective networking is really about building meaningful relationships.
 
After all, what’s better, kind of knowing a lot of people or having a smaller group of really great friends who would do anything for you? Like actually KILL for you. Well maybe not kill, but you get the idea. The same is true in the business world. Quality generally trumps quantity. You want to have a network of dependable, loyal friends and colleagues who have your back, and vice versa.
 
So how do you actually go about ensuring your network is as strong as it can be?
 

1. Be valuable to others

Our lives are busy, so if you want to stand out and build a strong network, then you need to have something to offer.
 
When you’re out there meeting new people, building your future empire, you want to avoid the mindset of “What can this person do for me?” and instead be thinking, “How can I be of service?” Maybe you can help them make a connection, or assist with a project they’re working on. Whatever it is, try to be genuinely helpful. Ultimately, the more you give, the more you get. And you’ll have the added bonus of actually being a good person, which isn’t the worst thing in the world.
 

2. Leverage your existing relationships

People are the key to effective networking, so start with the ones you already know.
 
Talk to your friends and colleagues, tell them what you’re looking, and see if they can make the right introduction. And don’t be afraid to be up front with your goals. If you’re looking for a certain connection or industry contact, let them know.
 
You can also reach out through secondary networks, like your school or LinkedIn. These tend to have lower success rates, but it’s worth a shot. And remember, networking takes persistence. But sooner or later you’ll make contact. So keep at it.
 

3. Ask for advice, not a job

When you’re meeting a new contact for the first time, leave the aggressive sales pitch at the door. No one likes to be bombarded right off the bat – unless they specifically ask for the pitch of course, then give ’em your best!
 
But you can still be deliberate with your encounter (without being obnoxious).
 
One tried and true approach is to ask for advice. Most people love sharing their two cents. And sometimes when you ask for advice, it can lead to something bigger, like a job, funding for your startup, or a partial ownership in their new super yacht. Well maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves. But you can’t go wrong asking for a little guidance.
 

4. Do your research and be a good listener

It’s natural to want to share your story when you’re meeting someone for the first time. But don’t monopolize the conversation, being a good listener is key. And when you can, do some research first to learn about the person – their job, their background, their interests, etc. You don’t want to come across as a stalker (stalking = bad), but you want to be present and informed. You’ll have a more constructive conversation and they’ll see you’ve put real effort into the meeting.
 
You should also be sure to follow up on your conversations. Hit ’em up on LinkedIn or send a “nice to meet you”/thank you email. And if you really want to stand out in the digital age, go with a hand written note. Thoughtful gestures go a long way in building rapport. (This is assuming your handwriting doesn’t look like second grader chicken scratch – if it does, stick to email.)
 

5. Be yourself!

When it comes down to it, most people want to help good people and build relationships with people they like. So be polite, be personable, smile, and most of all, be genuine. People have an uncanny ability to sniff out the BS, so you need to be yourself. Of course you want to present your “best self” when you’re making a first impression, but make sure the real you shines through. That’s what will stand out, that’s what people will remember, and most importantly, that’s how you’ll build relationships that will last a lifetime.
 

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