During my short stint in the corporate world I’ve had it drilled into me. Network, Network, Network. At the time I was 19 so forgive me for not taking the whole topic oh so seriously. In fact, it was only when I moved out of the corporate world, past my job as a director and into my life as a blogger that I truly understood the importance of networking.
Many people believe that networking is all about knowing more people (or in some cases knowing everyone), however they are wrong. Which is why todays topic is not about networking but learning how to network effectively.
Who Matters Most?
At IBM we were told to network with EVERYONE. It could be the person sat next to you at a hot desk that’s doing something entirely different to you, in a different department etc. Even just the 200 other students who are on the same programme as you but in different departments.
Not only is this wrong, it’s also impossible.
Instead figure out the critical few. It could be a co-worker, customer, mentor, or someone who you’ll find knows just about everyone (often through their long history of being at the company). These contacts are the people who you believe are going to be most valuable to your career.
That’s not to say you should dismiss everyone else. There’s no doubt value in each and every person you meet. So ask questions, listen, and learn.
Remain In Contact
Once you have identified those critical connections you need to keep in regular contact. The amount you keep in touch and to what degree is likely to vary depending on your relationship however at a minimum I’d advise once a quarter.
Learn about the person, their interests, their goals, and follow up with them enquiring about those.
An I’m not talking about keeping contact on Facebook or Twitter. Real life conversations, make phone calls and send personalised emails. The trouble with social media is that we can think we’ve spoken to a person and know what’s going on in their life from a single tweet or Facebook post. When in actual fact we might have not spoken to that person for months.
Find A Way To Help
This is perhaps my favourite part of networking. That initial contact. I’m a people pleaser. Which is why I’m always trying to find out the troubles, needs, concerns and desires of every one of my contacts.
Or, often more importantly, every one of the people I want to make one of my contacts.
Regardless of whether the person is a CEO or simply a peer. There’s always something that you’ll be able to offer – you just need to find it.
At IBM I was quick to realise I was the only one competent with HTML within my department. So, I offered to help my managers, manager (damn those were the days, when managers had managers who had managers, who also had managers – yes, it went on…) in redesigning the newsletter sent out to the department.
Think People, Not Positions
It’s a lot easier to know someone and form a connection early in that person’s career. Which is why I urge you to befriend the person who is at the same level as you but a leader, a person who’s at the very top of your class.
Because it’s likely to be those people who in 5 – 10 years are going to be influences, CEO’s. Generally people who are much harder to connect with once they make it to that higher level.
There we have it. My four key tips on how to network effectively. If you’re looking to take your ‘how to network effectively’ to another level. Then consider picking up Dale Carnegie’s, How to Win Friends & Influence People. The book may have been released in the late 1930’s however, it’s commonly known as the very best book on networking with people in the world!