We all know what an amazing potential a great network can have. It is essential when we are looking for a new job, when we are starting our own company or when we are looking for new clients.
But it is also extremely important for internationals and expats when starting their new lives. Being far away from our own family and friends, we are in need of support, motivation and inspiration. And all of this we can get through active networking.
The difficulties of active networking
Eight years ago, when I started my coaching business, I used to visit all the existing networking events that I could. In the beginning, it was really difficult.
As a natural born introvert, I used to talk to two or three new people max throughout the whole evening and that was it. I was coming home frustrated and disappointed, without visible prospects for new business contacts or prospects. When my husband asked about how it had gone, I would lock myself up in our bedroom and get even more upset.
But as time passed by, I noticed that networking is an art that can be learnt. In the last eight years, I have built an enormous network of valuable contacts. This network has become an amazing source of people who inspire me, support me, and whom I can help in return. A source that is not only beneficial to me but also to my clients.
The 8 golden rules of effective networking
As I mentioned, effective networking does not always come easily. Both introverts and extroverts can struggle with it in different ways. Introverts, like myself, often listen too much and are too focused on the speaking partner. Extraverts, on the other hand, do not know when to stop talking. They “flood” their networking partner with their own story and forget to ask about how others are doing.
In both cases, there is the risk that the networking attempt will not be as effective as it could have been. So what is effective networking? In my opinion, it is a way of networking which strikes a balance between giving and taking, between listening and talking. Based on my broad experience, I have prepared a list containing the 8 golden rules of effective networking:
1. Always be aware of the purpose of the networking group
Before going to a meeting, find out if it is a purely a social-minded group (book club, film club etc.) or a business group (for entrepreneurs, corporates, start-ups etc.).
2. Maintain a balance
Keep the balance between asking people questions and talking about yourself. If you notice the person is only talking and not actively asking you questions, you can always ask if they are interested in hearing what keeps you busy.
3. Ask for advice
People love giving advice. Instead of saying “I am looking for a new job, could you put me in contact with the HR manager of your company” which gives people a feeling of being cornered, you could say “I am looking for a new job, do you have some advice for me regarding whom I could contact?” By using this approach, the person is able to independently and creatively think about the solution to your problem. Do you see the difference?
4. Use the first name of the person you are talking to
And do it at least a couple of times during the conversation. Dale Carnegie, in his world-known bestseller “How to win friends and influence people”, states that people love the sound of their own names. It is music to our ears. It creates a feeling of closeness, interest and human contact, a feeling of being important.
5. Always ask the other person if you could be of help
Networking events were created so that people could help each other. I know from my own experience that the more you help, the more good things will come your way.
6. Follow up
Follow up after an event within the next 24 hours. Do not wait until the next week. People forget quickly. Send an email or LinkedIn invitation. Thank the other person and set up a date for a new meeting if there is a mutual need to do so.
7. Prepare yourself for a networking meeting
Always set a clear objective when going to networking events. It is very easy to think, oh I will just go and see what happens, but the chances are that nothing will happen. Do you want to meet five new people? Do you want to gain contacts at a certain company? Do you want to help three people?
8. Always have your elevator pitch ready
What is an elevator pitch? It is a clear and concise way of introducing yourself, your business or company. You can read more about the elevator pitch in my next article.
So, as you see, networking does not have to be complicated. Do you love networking? Do you hate networking? Share in the comments below!