Many folks roll their eyes at the idea of "Networking". They have come to associate the concept with some uneasy schmoozing or phony butt-kissing activities. There are consultants and coaches who counsel their clients against networking and instead recommend "connecting" (umm, that is like advising against breathing but instead recommending putting air into your lungs through involuntary and repetitive inhalations and exhalations. Same thing folks.... changing the words does not matter. A rose by any other name....).
I have seen speakers proclaim, "Networking is dead, it is all about connecting!" - Oh Please! Nice words, but networking is alive and well... and when done correctly it can have a huge impact on your career and the lives of others. Can call it what you want, but people who are committed to cultivating strong business relationships often have more opportunities.
When asking people for definitions of "networking" one gets a variety of thoughts on the topic. However, I have found the best description is:
"The creation of long-term and mutually-beneficial relationships between two or more people where all those involved in the relationship succeed more because of the connections than they would without."Key words: long-term and mutually beneficial. If it is one sided (or a quick hit) it is not networking. People who show up at industry events looking for favors without a commitment to the greater community are not networking. Being part of somebody's network means you are invested in their success in addition to your own.
Three Ways To Ensure You Get Value from Networking:
1. Long Term Commitment. If you show up at a business event to meet people expecting fast results for your business you will leave disappointed. The networking does not take place at an event, conference or other gathering where you meet business professionals (online or offline). The place you meet is simply a tool for starting a conversation. Networking happens over the years that follow. You will not develop an ongoing you relationship with everyone you meet, however those with whom you cultivate ongoing connections are the people that will become part of your long term circle of influence. You help them and they help you, but nobody keep score.
Meeting someone once does not make them part of your network. It makes them someone you have met once!
2. Kill the Elevator Pitch. We spend a lot of time teaching business professionals to create an elevator pitch about who they are and what they do for a living. Cute and catchy multi-sentence descriptive phrases do not get others excited or interested when they meet you. Instead of immediately talking about yourself and your company (and reciting a rehearsed monologue), ask them questions about their business and personal life. Take an interest in what is important in their world long before you talk about yours. (Note: it is important to be able to clearly and concisely tell others about you, just do not lead with it).
Do not make networking all about your needs. Start the relationships by showing you care about their future success as well as your own.
3. Refer Business to Other People Everyday. It is interesting that those who say networking does not work are often the same people who almost never go out of their way to help others find new business. We live in a busy world and we are all trying to find out own success, but if you only focus on your own needs then you cannot establish a real network (or reap the rewards from networking).
Zig Ziglar said it best: "You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want". Look back at your past month and determine how often you directly referred business or talked up others (including online). If you increase your efforts to help others find success, you will see more success.
Have A Great Day