You have probably heard a thousand times (as have I) that your personal and professional success is as much about who you know as what you know. But although I had heard this over and over again, I didn’t really GET the message until I became the Director of two organizations within a large Federal agency and subsequently became an entrepreneur. I realized then that to succeed I needed to tap into the expertise that others had and I had to find a way to connect with them.
Initially networking was something that I absolutely despised. In fact, I disliked talking to anyone that I didn’t know personally. At one point, attending business conferences, trainings and networking events would actually send me into a tailspin. Not only did I dislike communicating, I made every effort I could to avoid it, even going as far as to leave the room when I felt I may be asked to speak up about something.
What I later realized after doing an extensive deep dive on myself and exploring some of my issues, was that this was all the result of my low sense of value and belief that I had in myself. When I fixed those issues, I actually started to enjoy networking and attending business affairs, but more importantly than that I learned the true value.
If done properly, networking can not only open the door to career advancement, it can be business enhancing. It can lead to new clients, collaboration opportunities, sponsorships, and so much more.
I personally met my business attorney at a networking event and we have gone on to collaborate in trainings, work with non-profits and do a massive amount of other things. She introduced me to the director of a mentoring program in a neighboring city and several current sponsors for my movement. I can’t begin to tell you how much of a divine connection she has been and to top it off, she is a master networker a few and I have learned some very valuable things by just being around her.
I will share some of the tips with you that she has passed on to me. I am certain you will also find them of great value:
TIP #1: Give Before You Receive
One of the biggest mistakes that many make is expecting to receive before they give. If you want to form fruitful and long lasting relationships with others, you need to show them what it is in it for them rather than ask what is in it for you. Always seeking out favors and not giving is a sure way to lose some potentially valuable connections.
Tip #2: Quality Over Quantity
Instead of racking up the numbers, focus on cultivating deep personal connections. It is pointless to have an abundance of business cards and email addresses and not leverage any relationships. Follow-up is key after making the initial contact. Not all relationships will be fruitful, but you are sure to find some very beneficial.
Tip #3: Don’t Just Follow Those Who Appear “Shiny”
Truthfully, some people are very good at stretching their truth and over inflating their profile. And even if there is no exaggeration there is no guarantee that what they have to offer you, or you to them, is something that will be valued. Take time to get to know a person and don’t write someone off just because they are not bragging and boasting about. Subsequent conversations with them will reveal to you whether it is a relationship that you would like to continue.
When done effectively, networking can be the key that opens many doors and lead to many personal and career enhancing connections. And the great thing is that in this era there are so many different platforms to connect with others. You would be hard pressed to find a valid reason for not doing so. So no more excuses. It is time to get it started.
One thing that I have essential and I would also highly recommend is to develop a networking action plan. List some areas where you could use help and where you could help others. Also include in your plan the names of some of those you would like to connect with (I still have several on my plan and I find myself always adding). As you list your names, check to see if there is anyone with whom the two of you are mutually connected. Also check out some networking events that you would like to attend and place them on your calendar.