For years I have watched people network. It fascinates me. I love connecting people and seeing what develops. I love solving a problem through connecting people who can provide the answer. I've seen brilliant networkers and I've seen mediocre networkers. I've seen professionals and I've seen amateurs. The brilliant networkers are not always the professionals and the mediocre networkers are not always the amateurs.
The brilliant networkers are, however, those people who connect from the heart. No exceptions.
Before you scream at your screen, let me define a brilliant networker. A brilliant networker is someone who creates the space for a relationship to develop and then builds that relationship for mutual benefit. It is not someone who collects the most business cards and then adds those poor unsuspecting names to their database.
So how do you become a brilliant networker? As strange as it may sound this is actually a very individual thing and what works for one person may not work for another. Really think about the following points and questions, and how you react to them, and you can start to create your own networking strategy.
- Why are you networking in the first place?
What is your idea of success? Is it your own idea or that of a group of outsiders? Where do you want to be in five years' time?
- Who are you in your authentic self?
When are you truly happy? When do you feel proud (of yourself and of others)?
- When have you experienced flow?
When have you had a period of such intense focus that you lost yourself, forgot about time and were completely absorbed in a task? Remembering these moments and understanding what it was that had you so absorbed can be a huge indicator of your creative drivers and passion.
- Networking for the sake of your unique goals
What are the three major steps you can take to achieve your idea of success? Who do you know already who could help you? Who would you like to learn from? These are the relationships to understand, nurture and grow.
- Analysing and leveraging your existing network
Go to networking events and embrace opportunities to meet new people. Make these even more special by inviting people you already know who can attend with you. Not only will you maximise your time and allow your contact to network too, you will have a level of confidence from sharing the experience. This is a great way to re-connect with loose connections in your network in a non-threatening way. You can pre-arrange a coffee with your invited guests after the event to debrief and catch up further if necessary.
- Identify your inner circle
Jim Rohn, a business philosopher once said: "We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with."
Who do you spend the most time with? Who are the top five contacts in your business circle? Do these people serve your purpose? Are these people enhancing your dreams or holding you back? Who are the top five people who do align with your vision? How can you increase contact with people?
- Find a mentor
The value of mentors cannot ever be underestimated. Mentors see things in us that we sometimes cannot see ourselves. Having a sounding board who only has your best interests at heart is immensely valuable and empowering. We can have many mentors and mentors can be everywhere. Your mentor could be a trusted relative, a wise friend or a mentor through a structured program, or a combination of these. Sometimes the mentor/mentee journey, particularly when a program is followed, can uncover your true career direction. Through conversation, advice and consideration many mentees see their path had been in front of them all along. They were just too busy to see it.
- View every connection as an opportunity to learn.
Rather than be nervous when meeting new people, be curious about them. View the opportunity as time to learn what drives others, what makes them tick, why they do what they do. Take the pressure off yourself and put others in the spotlight. They will remember how you made them feel, you will learn from them and your connection will flourish.
Most of all enjoy yourself. Be yourself and remember that everyone you meet is just as human as you are.
Looking for a networking event to give these eight tips a go? Network Central's next Sydney Breakfast Series event is on 21 February and includes an address by executive coach and Roar People managing director Suzi Skinner. Women's Agenda readers will receive 20% off tickets to this event. Click here to book your ticket.
And check out the Women's Agenda Leadership Awards on 7 March, an opportunity to hear from and engage with some of the country's most inspiring women.
Kim McGuinness is managing director of Network Central, a networking and mentoring organisation for middle-managers, since 1999; the founder of networkingmentor.com.au, an online mentoring program; and one of Australia's leading commentators on business, marketing and networking. She is also co-author of Network or Perish – Learn the Secrets of Master Networkers.
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