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In today’s fast-paced world of social media, shameless self-promotion and never-ending ‘selfies’, the word Networking sends many people shying away from the process. Who wants to deal with every word being met with a full brass band? It’s all air-kisses, fake smiles and schmoozing, right?
Actually – wrong! The good news is that all this is a misconception. Networking should never feel intimidating or sleazy. If you do it right, it can be a smooth-sailing, mutually beneficial and surprisingly easy affair. Here we list 7 tips to start yourself networking without worry.
Being on time rarely gets noticed, but arriving late is never forgotten – and for all the wrong reasons! Unless it’s your wedding day, turning up late will do nothing but taint the all-important first impression and have you apologising right off the bat. Do you really want your first words to have to include ‘I’m sorry’? Weak foundations very seldom result in strong relationships. Besides, the majority of people that are worth networking with, will have a schedule to keep so late only lessening your time together. Beware of arriving too early as well though because you could interrupt the appointment prior to your or precious planning minutes.10 minutes is generally considered the safe window.
I’m not talking curtseys or ‘To Whom It May Concerns’ but many people still appreciate traditional formality and you just may ruffle a few feathers by using their first name uninvited. Respect goes a long way and appearing too familiar or casual with someone too quickly can be misinterpreted as disrespectful. To avoid this, always use ‘Mr.’ and ‘Ms.’ along with surnames until you are personally invited to do otherwise.
Back in the days of old, people made a big deal of things like birthdays, promotions and other good-news events. Sadly, a lot of that goodwill has fallen by the wayside and only tends to happen in person as a result of an invitation to a large-scale and glamorous affair. There’s no reason that you can’t touch base and keep yourself present by tapping into good vibes and sending well wishes, notes, messages, emails or tweets to those in your network who are celebrating an event; big or small.
4. Speak up!
Don’t wait for someone else to speak your thoughts. If you have a question to ask, ask it. If you have a favour to ask, ask it. Get to the point, because everybody appreciates that and there’s nothing worse than having a great idea or worthwhile statement and kicking yourself when somebody else brings it to light and you go unnoticed. Being engaging will make you memorable for the right reasons.
Networking should never be something that is inconsistent and poorly approached. Make a plan and follow it thoroughly. Keep a good filing system that you can rely on for current contact details and a few well-selected notes to jog your memory for conversation as well as a person’s mini-bio so that you’re able to see immediately if that contact is suitable to meet your present networking needs.
6. Scratch My Back…
Helping people is a great way to get noticed so make introductions and be socially enjoyable. Be the best version of yourself and include yourself in conversation. Where possible, do small favours whenever you can. This will always make the right impression, but make sure you don’t go from savvy to slave by being taken for granted and unappreciated or even worse – never having favours recognised or returned.
7. Follow Up
Following up does not mean “they must not be too annoyed with me because there’s no intervention order yet”, at all! There really is no easy way to have the awkward “stalker alert” conversation so don’t be too persistent too quickly. Ideally, your contact will initiate communication with you and you won’t have to worry about this. However, that does not happen and you have to wait a respectful amount of time before checking back with a potential client/employer/person of interest, you appear conscientious and organized. This is a much better outcome than desperate and creepy! After you’ve touched base and your contact has not responded after 2 attempts, bow out quietly.
There are a lot of opportunities for networking and many easy non-committal ways to keep in touch with people in your network. Use them frequently and become well-known and well-regarded in your circles. This will ensure you are put forward by your peers as someone worthwhile contacting for various positions in your industry. Remember, it’s not what you know, but who you know and that why networking the right way will continue to improve your career.
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