Networking, as we know, is a skill you can learn but one that people sometimes hate to have to do. There is so much to think about – how much to drink (or not to drink), where are the business cards, who are the important people to meet etc.
However the so called ‘soft skills’ needed for personal and professional development are not soft at all – they are human characteristics that will take you far, and can be applied equally as successfully to networking. Here are some tips to sue these ‘soft skills’
Keep your eye out for someone on their own at networking events
Is there someone not in a group? Ask them to join you. Can you notice someone standing awkwardly to one side? Turn and make room for them to join your group.
Be on time, or even better, early
Being always late is just rude – it delays others, delays decisions and destroys trust. And that is just at work! Vow to be on time, and plan to be early. Being early to networking events means that you are able to join conversations early – and we use the word conversation deliberately – it is a two way thing not about you talking about someone
Connect people because you can
If you know two people who would like each other, or work well together, or who have mutual business interests – introduce them. In person is grat , but email after the vent is just as useful. I can’t tell you how many business relationships have been built on something as simple as this.
Don’t just collect business cards
There is no need to keep a collection of business cards – if you’re given one, connect on LinkedIn and put the details straight into your contacts. use the tag and notes function in LinkedIn, and the notes field in contacts. Send an email following the introduction to et up a meeting or just to say thank you.
Connecting on LinkedIn afterwards
To be completely honest, getting a ‘I’d like to add you to professional network on LinkedIn’ message is boring – although I admit I do make allowances for people who hit the ‘connect’ button o mobile devices and the message goes automatically because I have done it myself. Always go to the person’s LinkedIn profile and connect from there as it allows you to add a personal message, for example – “It was lovely to meet you last night at xx event, and I’d like to add you to my professional network etc’
Remember – networking is not just about what you can get
Networking is also about what value you can provide to others and developing relationships. One of my favourite stories is of a young graduate lawyer offering a lift to someone at the airport in a long taxi queue. They exchanged cards as the man wanted to end him a note. Turns out he was the CEO of a large listed company and they stayed in touch, mostly by email but occasionally saw each other at events. Ten years after the initial taxi ride that large company listed and the young graduate was by that stage a senior associate at a mid tier firm. Guess who won the tender for the IPO over the big nationals? And guess who became a partner on the back of winning that work? That initial act of kindness developed into a lifelong client relationship – but it started 10 years after the initial contact.
Networking really is all about people – remember to use your soft skills not necessarily your selling skills for success.
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