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    Six tips that will help you grow a strong professional network

    May 24, 2016 by Alison Hill

    There’s more to networking than a free glass of wine while you meet some new people. Effective networking – getting together with others with the aim of building a strong set of connections – is an art that can be learned.

    A strong professional network can lead to new clients, business deals, connections with great people, finding the perfect employee or getting a great job offer. But first, you have to build your network. As marketing strategist and author Dorie Clark writes, those are side-effects of relationship building.
    1. Attend the right events
    There’s certainly a place for social media networking, but we have all probably relied on it to the detriment of networking in person. Get back into attending organised networking events through professional associations, business chambers, conferences, alumni associations and through Meetup groups. Then connect with the people you meet through LinkedIn or other networks. Using in-person networking to enhance networking on social media, not the other way around, leads to more powerful and authentic connections. The exception is where the events have a social media channel set up for attendees to connect beforehand. If that’s the case, use it to research people with whom you have something in common and those who you would like to meet before the event.
    2. Build common ground and a personal connection
    Be prepared. Read the news, think about what you might say about a book you have been reading or somewhere you have visited recently – a trip, a cafe, a gallery, a sports match all make good and genuine conversation starters.
    I read a ‘tip’ that said one should ‘network for net worth’. And yes, they meant financial worth. My first thought was that I wouldn’t want a person who thinks that way in my network. Everybody is worth more than their bank balance. Making a genuine connection with people you meet will lead you to the kind of people you want to interact with in future. And remember too that not everybody will like you – and that’s okay.
    3. Ask questions and listen to the answers
    Starting off with your ‘elevator pitch’ or a marketing statement for your brand can be off-putting. A better approach is to ask genuine questions that you are interested in hearing the answers to, and to listen – really listen – to the replies. Don’t be looking over the person’s shoulder in case somebody more important turns up. Give them your full attention, and be aware of what you can add to a discussion. When it’s time to end a conversation, do so gracefully, making eye contact and telling the person it’s been nice to meet them.
    4. Give more than you ask for
    You’ve no doubt heard it said that you have to make deposits before you can make withdrawals in your professional life. We can’t say it enough: building relationships takes time. Go into the session with the mindset that you are there to help others, not to find ways to promote yourself. Think you have nothing to offer? How about introductions to others in your network, publicity for a person’s new venture, an offer to share their blog posts with your network or to promote their product on your pages?
    5. Get out of your comfort zone
    It’s a networking event, so don’t spend all your time talking to the three people you already know. Get out and work the room, meeting and talking to as many people as you can. Everybody is attending with the same purpose, so there’s no need to feel awkward about approaching a total stranger.
    Your body language says heaps about you before you say a word. To look approachable, your stance should be open, your hands at your side, and your body turned towards people who are moving towards you.
    6. Don’t forget to network within your own organisation
    Making new connections in your own organisation can help you to get things done innovatively in your present role through understanding what others do, and ultimately can help you to progress within the organisation. Don’t confine it to drinks and seminars; getting out and getting fit is also a great way to network with your colleagues. It’s also a good, non-threatening environment in which to practice your networking skills, making you more confident, improving your listening and questioning skills and revealing new insights from the people you meet.


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