You can drastically change the quality of your life – especially your ability to accumulate wealth by networking effectively and taking advantage of the opportunities presented to you! Your network is truly your net worth. Sounds cliché but it’s true. The first few job offers I received after I graduated from university, came from networking with people at conferences, and emailing strangers that were successful in the industry I wanted to be in (for me that was accounting and finance).
Winning at networking means finding a way to leverage your network to create opportunities for yourself!
People network for different reasons: to get a job, a business contract, a business partner, an investor, or just to meet a new friend. As long as you are able to leverage your network, the opportunities are endless!
However, networking can be quite daunting for a lot of people. I know this too well, because at the first networking event I attended I only ended up talking about the weather, and the food served. Safe to say, I made no connections! CLEARLY, I have made mistakes but these are 5 tips I have learnt over the years that can help you win at networking:
- Change your mind:
Networking should not be scary; it should be fun! Think of it as a way to meet new people, and learn more about them. Instead of trying to force yourself to attend every networking event in your field, try to match the events you attend to your strengths and interests! For example, you can attend networking events for young entrepreneurs if you are interested in being an entrepreneur. You can even create your own event!
Also remember that networking does not have to be at formal events; it can be done through email, LinkedIn, Facebook and even Twitter! So if you are more comfortable making connections offline go ahead (after cleaning up your profile). After all Ryan Graves became the first hire at Uber after replying to a simple tweet. Now he is worth $1.5 billion!
- Be prepared:
At networking events it is important to come prepared! Research the people attending the event ahead of time by looking at their company bios, LinkedIn and Twitter profiles. Then reach out to them BEFORE the event. Find their emails if you can and gave them a quick heads up, saying something like,
I read your book about … I found your views on … very interesting. I saw that you would be attending the XX Conference on (Insert date of conference). I would love to get together during the networking session of the conference to learn more about the work you’ve done on this topic.
This should be short and sweet. This would make the person look forward to meeting you, which would make it easier to focus on building relationships, rather than the usually weird introductions. Also, by showing interest in the person by stating that you had read their book, for example, they’d be more willing to help you.
- Focus on other people and not your accomplishments:
Generally, people like to talk about themselves, and asking good questions and genuinely trying to get to know other people is a great way to build organic relationships. Forget what you were told in business school, at networking events you do not always have to promote yourself or your business! Anyone can see through that. Plus it’s boring! Instead, try to show interest in the people you meet because people are more willing to do things for people they like.
Just be sure to exchange business cards. One thing I always do is write a few notes behind the business card with interesting facts about the people I meet. This comes in handy when I have to follow up.
- Give Value To Receive Value:
You have to go in knowing what you bring to the table. It might be money or it might be some service, possibly volunteering! By focusing on adding value to people and working actively towards a vision much bigger than yourself, you will attract opportunities that you never even expected!
As a volunteer at a charity in Ottawa, I offered 15 hours of my time almost every week for about 6 months. I tried my best to provide value to everyone I came across while volunteering in order to achieve the goals of the organization. During my time there, I got two job offers: one from the organization itself, and another from one of the organizations’ vendors. A few months after, I was approached by the head of the Toronto branch to become the Human Resources Chair- an opportunity I never expected I would have! By putting my time and effort towards a cause much bigger than myself, I was able to show my skills, and work ethic, and this opened many doors for me.
- Follow Up:
If you don’t plan on following up, just save yourself time (and money in some cases) and stay at home! Following up is your only chance of building a strong, lasting relationship. Always strive to follow up within 24-48hrs after meeting the person. Don’t send a generic email; try to include something interesting you learnt about the person or a link to an article your new contact might find interesting. This would let him/her know that you were listening! Here is a quick example of a follow up email I sent to someone I met at a networking event my university put on last year. This is particularly helpful for university students/ recent grads looking for a job!
After emailing, be sure to ask for a meeting in person – coffee is always a good bet. Be sure to make your intentions, and goals known to the person. If they are able to help you they might or they might be able to connect you to someone who can! But while you wait, be sure to build a strong relationship by keeping in touch via email or by meeting in person.
Networking is a valuable skill and it is only learned with practice. No doubt that it would be a bit daunting at first but with practice you would feel more relaxed and would soon become a pro!
What are some networking tips that have helped you?