Learn How to Network The Right Way
Make the most of your time
Networking is incredibly effective – if you do it right. But too many people end up wasting their time by networking ineffectively.
Find out how to do it correctly and get results, whether you’re looking for job leads, referrals, exposure, connections, or opportunities to grow your business.
Mistakes to avoid
There are three classic mistakes to avoid in networking, according to Kerry Connelly, founder and president of Vision to Mission, a business coaching and consulting firm:
Mistake #1: Go to the event with a "What's in it for me?" attitude
Very often networkers will go to an event with the end in mind. If they have something to sell, they hope to sell at this event. If they need a job, they hope to get a job at this event. But networking is less about immediate end results and more about long-term relationships that pay dividends over and over again. By networking with a very specific agenda ("I must sell something, or I must obtain an nterview") you vastly limits your options.
Instead, mingle with an open mind and an open hand. Ask more questions than you answer, and find ways to help the people you're networking with. You never know who's in their network, who they know, and how they can help you when it's their turn to do the helping.
Mistake #2: Never making the ask
I promise, I'm not contradicting myself. Everything I said in #1 is still true. But I've seen people take it too far and never actually make the ask for what they want or need. A good networker will go to an event with an open heart and a true desire to help other people, but when the time is right, they are not afraid to ask for help themselves. Everyone at a networking event knows what they are there for - to grow a business, find an opportunity, develop a career. So it's okay to make the ask. In fact, it's sort of the point. But the way you make the ask is what's important.
Are you asking the right person? Remember that networking is less about the end result and more about building relationships and, most importantly of all, tapping into the expanded networks of the people in the room. Every person in the room represents a whole other world of people that you have not yet met. THAT is the beauty of networking -- the access you all of a sudden have to these brand new circles of people. But you'll only tap into that access if you ask the right questions.
Mistake #3: Writing people off before you know who they (really) are
I've seen it a hundred times. It's happened to me more times than I care to admit. I'll meet someone, they'll ask what my business is, and as soon as I tell them, you can see their brains switch gears if they think I have nothing to offer them. Their eyes start floating over my head as they search for their next prospect, and they extricate themselves from the conversation quickly. They never even attempt to find out what I was hoping to get out of the conversation. And worse, they missed out on the chance to tap into my network.
They made an assumption about me, and they have no idea what they missed out on. They have no idea who I hang out with. Just because my business may not be compatible with theirs doesn't mean that I don't have clients that would be a great introduction. Or a father who's a CEO of a company who needs those services or a BFF who's hiring. Again, it's that "end in mind" mentality instead of an open mind that closes more doors than you can imagine when networking.
“Instead, give everyone your full attention. Ask questions, and go to each event with a servant's heart. That's going to give you huge pay outs over the long term, and that's what real networkers know,” Connelly said.
Additional tips for networking
In addition, Lida Citroen, an international branding and reputation management expert, said it might be obvious, but it’s important to make sure you meet people at an event:
- When attending an event, set a goal of how many people you will meet and stick to it. This gives your networking a sense of purpose and direction.
- Reciprocate. For every favor you ask, be sure to return with something of greater perceived value. The scales should always be tipped in your contact’s favor.
- Be a resource. Find ways to help your contacts. Send news clippings or articles of relevance. Refer a colleague. Be seen as a resourceful person.
- Know their business, and be sure they know yours. Let your contacts know how they can help (based on the category you’ve assigned them). It is always easier to help someone if they are clear about what they need and want!
- Be authentic. When you are genuine, people want to get to know you and help you. Most businesspeople can detect insincerity a mile away.