Business environment offers challenges that can’t be overcome by acting alone, so building your own professional network is vital to run a successful business. Some people believe that networking is a manipulation, illusion of friendship for profit, but I have some arguments in favor of this part of social activity.
Firstly, communication with professionals from different industries or different spheres of the same industry expands vision of things and opens new horizons for self-development and challenge approach. Secondly, valuable partnerships can be found at the junction of spheres and industries that seem to be far apart. Finally, the sensation that you are surrounded by supporting people who consider your ideas, projects, and skills interesting, inspires to implement your bold plans.
The subject of networking is so voluminous that can hardly be scoped within one article, nevertheless we will try to point out some principal ideas.
Networking is a list of activities manifested by searching, developing and maintaining relationships based on mutual information and experience exchange, which contributes to personal and professional development of people involved.
Networking is an acquired skill that is received by practicing and analyzing. Here are some recommendations for a novice to make your network an effective weapon in achieving goals.
WHERE SHOULD I GO?
Individual willing to establish new connections should be in the place where professionals are gathering. That means participating in conferences or other business events. The majority of successful people I know say that active involvement in the events on a regular basis helps them to generate word of mouth advertising, which is considered the most effective and the cheapest form of business development.
WHAT AM I DOING HERE?
Your explicit intentions will help you to avoid the what-am-I-doing-here feeling during a conference. So, set up clear objectives to understand what you want to get from the event – explore the list of speakers and attendees, point out (I’d use formulate) the questions you want to clarify and highlight the most interesting persons you want to establish contact with. And finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions and approach people. However, here is a point to remember: quality is more important than quantity. It is better to establish a couple genuine connections than distribute dozens of business cards and be forgotten happily the next day.
WHO AM I?
There’s nothing worse than being asked the question “What do you do?” and suddenly coming up blank. Make a few sentences about you and your company, giving a brief summary of your roles, competencies, abilities but don’t focus on technologies or some specific professional details. Here is a real dialogue during a business event:
– Hi! What do you do?
– I am an IT outsourcing company owner…
– Wow, that’s cool!!! Can you specify your activity?
– Well, we are good at frontend & backend, also have experience in mobile app development but mainly specializing in PHP.
What was that? You have just told to forget you. There is no way you could answer this way. unless you want to piss someone off. The irony of human relations is that your partner doesn’t give a toss on you and what you are doing. Asking about your competencies he actually wants to know whether you will be helpful for his business. For example:
– We implement ERP systems that help companies to simplify document and workflow management.
This answer is likely to make a person you are talking to more curious, and your conversation may grow into something bigger than just a courtesy talk. Following the rule, tell about your real clients’ success stories, instead of speaking about the features of your app.
WHY DO I HAVE TWO EARS AND ONE MOUTH?
Usually listening is more important than speaking. Always listen carefully to a person you are talking to. By listening carefully, we get a better understanding of our partner’s personality and professional experience, get new knowledge and broaden our mind. Besides, striving to find commonalities will increase the chances for productive connection because people tend to gravitate toward each other sharing same views of things. So make sure that you are really listening to your partner, instead of waiting for your part to talk.
WHAT SHOULD I DO NEXT?
The key success factor is the next communication after the meeting. You have to take care of your connection by sending thank-you-letter – appreciation for meaningful dialogue. Don’t hesitate to call after a while.
The effectiveness of networking is based on mutual investment in the connection, whether it is advice, service, product, knowledge or experience. Obviously, networking is more about advancing your professional goals than making friends. Anyway, it is impossible to build solid relationship, putting personal profit above trust and mutual desire to help.