Networking may come easily but that may not be the case for a lot of other people as it is a skill that is acquired. So, why is networking so important? Oftentimes when this topic comes up, you would picture a roomful of decently dressed people sipping wine, exchanging business cards and pleasantries all in the hopes of meeting new people that will benefit them. They are either looking for opportunities or for solutions to their problems. Youths often have the room to master this skill through their internship. However, do bear in mind that an internship is just an opportunity for exposure to the outside world, it is your duty to build your empire with the people you cross paths with during the process and how to make the most out of it.
How does one make a strategic approach to build and maintain their network?
First, you have to take stock of who you need to know to make your next move. It would be great to research the targeted company or aspects of the industry that interests you. Build more positive relationships along the way to cultivate for your next move. Networking is not restricted to formal events like conferences and may often come by unexpectedly. For instance, while queuing in line at Starbucks or even at a garden party. Your best bet is during speciality events where people have a particular set of skills which might pique your interest. Most times, you never know who you will meet, who they might know or even how they can contribute in expanding your network. Hence, experts advise one to always have their business card and resume within their reach especially when attending events. However, you should only give them out when the time is right or upon their request. While having a conversation, your body language sets the tone and the rest is history. As an example, the head tilt is a universal sign that signifies ‘I’m listening’, purely through body language and while you are listening, do so empathetically with curiosity about the other person’s career. Once a genuine connection is channelled, feel free to bring up the topic of jobs even if it does not come up naturally in the conversation.
Networking creates long and lasting relationships among one another. It is about making connections with someone who would be joyful to receive a call from you in the future. One way to maintain a lasting relationship is by constantly checking up and reconnecting with people you haven't seen in a long time. This way, you can continue nourishing your relationships without having to worry in the long run. It can be as easy as sending a text to that person by dropping a brief to the point message but maintaining authenticity throughout. Try to recall how you’ve managed to obtain your current contacts, you will find that you met most of them in different circumstances and bonded over random things. With enough time, this will all lead to a quality friendship, but do not forget to set necessary boundaries. If you’re seeking to get better at networking and building up that circle of yours, a highly recommended book is “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi. It is a power-packed book that’s filled with quick tools that will help amp up your networking skills to another level.
Once a proper foundation is laid, you should focus more on improving by taking an inventory of those you've already known. Never be ashamed to seek help or advice from field experts who are able to give professional guidance. You may also share some interesting projects or gain from the good and the bad experiences or maybe even leverage each other’s knowledge and contacts for personal gain. Sociologists call this having social capital. Your network is more useful the more people you know who fulfill the prior definition. They would be more than happy to talk about things they are passionate about and you will learn a lot more in return. The important perk of networking is the confidence boost you acquire from constantly getting out of your comfort zone and meeting new people. This will quickly prove to be an invaluable trait for the rest of your life. Tim Sanders once said “your network is your net worth” has been proven to be accurate throughout the ages. Those who have a strong circle of friends around them can always rely on them to accelerate your growth may it be physical, mental or emotional.
While there is a great amount of benefits from networking, there are times when some are unable to perform while networking due to their introverted personality. One should always bear in mind that it is totally fine to be shy but take into account that it would be close to impossible to make it to the top of Mount Everest without constant trying, dedication and a strong will. Start small, reach out to old connections, maybe an old friend from high school or even be that nice neighbour that always says hi whenever.
Steps to consider when networking
First, make it easy for people to approach you. Do not stand next to a wall staring into space and avoiding people. Second, have a goal. Start a conversation with someone being genuinely interested in wanting to learn more about them. Third, initiate the first step and ask the person a question, may it be about their hobbies, interest, passions or even questions like what is their biggest takeaway from past events that they have been to. People enjoy recommending resources and you can make a connection with someone who shares your interests. Fourth, balance the conversation. Think of it like a tennis match where there is a constant back and forth momentum in a two-way communication manner. Fifth, give first and receive later. This occurs after a few minutes of chatting. For example, you can start off by giving them a tip about something they shared or even offer advice and how to solve a problem they shared. You can even connect them to someone you know that will be of help. By doing so, the person will have an internal instinct to help you in return. Sixth, do not bring negativity into play. Do not bond with others over how bad the event was organised or how terrible the speaker delivered the speech. Instead, always focus on positivity as optimists and outperformed pessimists are realists in the long run. Seventh, keep your conversation short and meaningful, do not beat around the bush on unnecessary matters.
At the end of the day, networking isn't solely about meeting new people. Mastering the art of networking can strengthen your testimonials and will help in gaining a competitive advantage. In fact, some argue that getting a job is more about who you know than what you know. In conclusion, referrals can really pay off your hard-earned skills with a fruitful life ahead.
By: Megan Yeow Pei Yen