“Sometimes, idealistic people are put off by the whole business of networking as something tainted by flattery and the pursuit of selfish advantage. But virtue in obscurity is rewarded only in Heaven. To succeed in this world you have to be known to people.” – Sonia Sotomayor
Do you hate networking? Does it make you feel phoney, uncomfortable and even dirty? You are not alone! It is however about time you overcame your reservations, as research consistently shows that professional or business networking lead to more job and business opportunities.
Networking is an effective low cost marketing method that you cannot afford to opt out of. We have put together five tips for you to get started and become a natural!
Stakeholder mapping Stakeholder mapping is done by firstly identifying stakeholders; listing relevant groups, organisations, and people. Keep in mind that this list wıll not be static, but will change as your business and the environment around you changes. The second step is understanding stakeholder perspectives and interests, and analyse them for impact and influence. Once this is done, you can move on to the actual mapping; a visual exercise that will allow you to get a clear overview of your stakeholders. Examine your map and prioritise; have a strategy and be clear whom you should be engaging with and why.
Invest in the relationship beforehand Remember that networking is a long term process that often will not produce instant rewards. It is wise to prepare and nurture your relationships before you need them; get started right away! Building relationships with people whom you are not directly dependent on will also feel more natural, and less dirty, for those who are uneasy about networking.
Visibility Ensure you are seen and noticed, on different channels, IRL and online. Most people associate networking with external networking, but do not forget to network within your own organisation. Attendance to industry events, lectures or conferences is an excellent strategy; attend events where you have the chance to meet and interact with senior stakeholders you have identified on your map, e.g. when they are visiting your market or area. You can make your networking even more targeted by thorough preparation before an event; read up on the other attendees, set a strategy and follow it!
Social Media Networking IRL is not enough in today’s world. Presence on social media is a must for any successful business. However, do not think simply setting up a profile on LinkedIn will do! You need to work on it continuously; ensure your searchability by using the right key words, and be active. Being active does not only involve sharing posts yourself, but also reaching out to and interacting with others.
The principle of reciprocity Our final tip is a simple, intuitive one, but one surprisingly forgotten by many. Be helpful and generous. Find out about people’s interests and talk about them to relevant people in your already established network. If you help others, not only will they will be more inclined to return the favour, you also get a chance to showcase your skills and talents.
Follow these five tips and make networking part of your life. Do not expect instant results, be patient and in due time you will be able to reap the fruits of your hard work.
Do you have any tips related to networking? What benefits have networking brought you? Contribute to the conversation below.