Networking. The mere word is enough to strike fear into the heart of many people.
If you’d rather cut off your arm than enter a room of strangers, approach a group and strike up conversation, read on. This one’s for you.
Check out this definition of networking and suddenly it becomes a lot less scary. Businessdictionary.com refers to networking as ‘creating a group of acquaintances and associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit.’ When you look at it this way, chances are that you’re already indulging in a little networking without realising it.
Stop thinking about sales
Don’t put yourself under pressure to justify time away from your desk with an immediate commercial return. If you want to set yourself a goal, try something simpler, such as talking to three new people, or re-engaging with three existing contacts. Above all, remember this additional nugget from our friends at businessdictionary.com: ‘Networking is based on the question “How can I help?” and not “What can I get?”’.
Two ears, one mouth
Ask questions and show a genuine interest in what others are doing. Listen carefully – there’s a reason that we can close our mouth but not our ears! Most people enjoy talking about what they do. Even if their activities are not directly relevant to your line of work, they might be of interest to someone else you know. This is another important aspect of networking: connecting others who might benefit from an introduction.
Find your format
We’re fortunate in the north-east, where I’m based, that there are a wide range of excellent networking opportunities available via various organisations, including our Chamber of Commerce, Elevator and Aberdeen Business Networking (ABN). Such initiatives are likely to be replicated throughout the country. Options include speed-networking for the time-pressed and events where you are guaranteed to meet everyone in the room. Still sounds too formal? If you’re into sport, you may end up networking inadvertently via golf outings, or through your local cycling or running club. Find the fit that works for you. Remember too that you can always start online by joining some forums or LinkedIn groups.