Top Tips to Becoming a Networking Whizz
(Part 1 of a 2-part feature).
Developing effective networking skills can strengthen anyone’s influencing capabilities, sometimes without them even knowing it! Networking is a modern, yet often undervalued skill that can significantly benefit your personal and professional growth. For those who are keen to promote and market their skills, products or services, networking has many benefits – including the profile of their Lodge and assist in Freemasons Victoria membership acquisition and retention.
Here’s the first of my 2-part list of networking skills that will help you create and develop a strong and enduring community presence. By the way, it’s not ‘rocket-science’ and you will be surprised by how naturally these skills will come to you. Be sure to check out next week’s installment!
1. Define your goals and be prepared
Before you try to start networking, identify what you want to achieve. Whether it's finding someone who can potentially help you with something, exploring job opportunities, or building community connections, clarifying your objectives will help you focus your efforts. Being prepared is not just for scouts, and your pre-networking effort starts with making a list of questions or discussion topics that you can use to spark a conversation. Action steps:
- Clearly define EXACTLY what you want to get from your networking effort
- Set a series of goals – even a single goal is fine
- Assess your current situation and determine if you have connection ‘gaps’ to fill
- Set SMART goals – ones that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timed
- Prioritize your goals (this will help you focus your efforts)
- Be ‘granular’. Try breaking down just one goal into a smaller, actionable step
- Create a timeline and have a milestone vision
- Adjust your networking goals. It’s important to be flexible and re-set a goal
2. Be yourself
The importance of being yourself cannot be understated. Remember that when you network, you are making an impression. When attending an event, catching up at a coffee shop or simply making a phone call, always be genuine and authentic. Approach networking with a sincere and authentic mindset. If you don’t, there is a good chance that you will be perceived as a salesman (with the utmost respect to all salespeople!) People will always warm to you if you’re friendly and open. When conducting business, always be professional, but approachable. Tip: Use one of your discussion list topics to get the conversation rolling.
Building meaningful connections is all about forming mutually beneficial relationships, not just collecting business cards. Some tips include:
- Embrace your own uniqueness. Being true to yourself is an asset
- Have confidence in your abilities
- Avoid trying to impress or be someone you’re not
- Practice active listening, and give people your full attention
3. Get out and about
When the opportunity presents itself, try to attend industry events. Participate in conferences, workshops, seminars, community group meetings and other relevant events where you are likely to mix with a like-minded audience. These gatherings provide excellent opportunities to meet people with similar community interests, beliefs and ideals. Even if you meet with just one or two people who share a common interest, you have then expanded your network. Make sure to engage in conversations and exchange contact information with people you meet. Even better, extend an invitation for them to join you at one of your own meetings.
4. Seek out networking opportunities within your current circle
Don't overlook the potential networking opportunities within your existing network. Friends, colleagues, classmates, and alumni can provide valuable connections, referrals, and insights. Actively engage with them and communicate your professional interests and aspirations. Creating your own networking events is a great idea and encourages others to come to you. Utilize social media platforms and follow/join groups (more on this next week).
5. Share ideas
Other people will almost certainly have different points of view. They will often offer you a unique perspective on (for example) a community, social or industry issue. Never underestimate the depth of knowledge and experience that exists within a group setting. Make sure to take advantage of it. Make the most of the time you have. Ask questions. Give feedback. Share experiences and best practices. Make sure you keep a small notebook at the ready, so you do not miss any gems of wisdom.
6. Offer help and support
Networking isn't just about what you can gain; it's also about what you can contribute. Offer your assistance, share your knowledge, and help others achieve their goals too. By being generous and supportive, you'll build a positive reputation and establish stronger connections.
7. Raise your profile
When your target audience or peers see you at any event or social gathering, they’ll know you are serious about your own interests or profession – and maybe even a good choice for them if you are considering career your prospects. Whatever the desired outcome, your profile will be in front of a powerful network. Don’t be afraid to say something, even if it’s your first time participating in this forum. Speak up!
Word-of-mouth has always been considered the best form of advertising, and those you meet may well respond well to what you have to say – and (most importantly!) tell others. Even a small network has the potential to extend to a much larger reach. Some tips to raise your profile
- Define your personal brand by developing a unique value proposition (your benefits)
- Make sure your online presence is up to date
- Share valuable content with others
- Practice your public speaking skills (Toastmasters is invaluable experience to learn how to ‘think on your feet’
- Always follow up and stay connected
8. Increase your credibility
As you attend more professional networking events, so your support, reputation and credibility will grow. You may become sought after for your unique perspective and knowledge. Make sure you share these with those in your network who could benefit. Giving helpful advice to a colleague can go a long way to increasing your profile. So, it’s a win for you, a win for your colleague and also an important win for your network.
- Develop expertise in an area and stay up to date with industry trends and best practice
- Show how you can solve problems and add value to something
- Be reliable and act with integrity
- Seek feedback and embrace continuous improvement
- Make sure to communicate effectively