By Nikki MacCallum
Networking is one of the most important skills that you can utilize to position yourself for career success wise. It is also an activity that individuals typically find overwhelming, daunting, and scary. Networking comes in many different forms of relationship building and sometimes we don’t even realize we’re doing it. In many ways, every single person we encounter presents an opportunity, and part of the challenge of networking is figuring out where those opportunities are. Below are seven different tricks to make networking more palatable, tangible, and productive.
- Socialize what you’re looking for. You don’t have to necessarily be at a networking event to network. Whenever you meet someone new it is really important to mention what you’re currently working on and or looking to attract. There’s a myth that networking revolves around asking for favors when in reality, it can be as simple as making what you’re looking for known. Give someone else an opportunity to help you. I was recently looking for a celebrity endorsement for my book and had invested hours into reaching out to potential targets. No one was even responding to me so finally out of frustration I took the opposite approach. I started telling everyone I met that I wrote a book and was looking for a celebrity to write the foreword. At an event completely unrelated to books or writing, I was socializing this concept in conversation and the person I met volunteered that one of their close friends was a celebrity and they’d be happy to pitch the idea. That is how I wound up getting the foreword for my book. If you’re looking for a new job, mention it! If you’re looking for business in a certain arena, be sure to let folks know what it is that you do.
- For every question you ask someone, share something about yourself. Often times when meeting someone new, the conversation can be awkward and our human instinct is to ask a bunch of questions. This is great as showing interest in another person is a fantastic and attractive quality. It is also a great way to get information, however, if you never share about yourself, you’re not giving the person anything to remember you by. This can be as simple as asking someone where they are from. Once they respond, you can immediately follow up and let them know where you’re from. Don’t wait to be asked. Make sure you give the person something to grab onto before you leave that conversation.
- Make sure to get the person’s business card. Just handing out yours isn’t enough. It is wonderful to have business cards and to be able to share contact information but the only way to guarantee a follow up is to take matters into your own hands. You should not leave an interaction without getting the other person’s contact information so that you can follow up with them. Take control.
- In your follow up, reference the memory you created. We all encounter so many different people on a daily basis that sometimes it’s hard to put a face with a name when receiving an email. In your follow-up email to a potential contact, make sure to reference something from your conversation that will immediately make them think of you. It can be a talking point or a humorous observation you both made during your time together.
- Make yourself vulnerable. At the end of the day, we are all human. Oftentimes when networking, the tendency is to keep things super professional and serious. If you’ve had a bad day, it is okay to share that with the person you’re conversing with. Making yourself vulnerable is the fastest way to make meaningful connections. Humans are attracted to vulnerability. If there’s a challenge you’re facing that day, share it (within reason of course)!
- Don’t underestimate the power of asking for advice. There’s an old quote by Pitbull, “Ask for money get advice. Ask for advice get money twice.” Asking someone for advice is a way to grant someone else the opportunity to add value. It also has the capacity to make someone feel flattered and special, which puts them in a headspace of genuinely wanting to help you. One of the best connections I’ve made in my entire career stemmed from asking to take someone to lunch so that I could pick their brain. It turned into a lifelong mentorship and this person has since created multiple opportunities for me professionally.
- If you can’t directly help the person you’re networking with, you can still add value by introducing them to someone who can. It’s always important to capitalize on any opportunity you have to add value to someone else. First of all, it’s a nice thing to do, and second, if it pans out, that person will surely remember you and return the favor down the road. I was recently talking to an individual who mentioned that they were a bag designer. A very close friend of mine happens to have a handbag company and was looking for a new designer. I was able to introduce the two of them and now they work together. And, to bring this full circle, had this person not been socializing that they were a bag designer I never would’ve thought to make the connection.
You can practice these seven techniques anytime and anywhere. Remember, you don’t need to be at a networking event to network! Make connections, build relationships, and set yourself up for success.
To discuss this topic more, reach out to me at NMacCallum@lighthouseglobal.com.