Networking is a word that is on the lips of just about anyone in every industry. And it’s not surprising, because networking can be extremely beneficial to your career, as well as your personal life, Who you know is just as important as what you know in this day and age.
Having the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the most influential and successful people in your niche is not only an incredible learning experience but also a chance to kickstart your business.
However, networking is not easy to pull off, in case you don’t want to come off as sleazy and dishonest. Of course, all parties involved are looking to get something out of it, which makes all of your efforts to appear genuine somewhat awkward, especially if you don’t know what you are doing.
And in case you are an introvert, networking is probably something you dread, unlike your extrovert peers, which feel right at home. But, even though extroverts thrive in a social setting, introverts have an ace up their sleeve, according to Emma Brown, manager at EdugeeksClub:
“Introverts are more open to networking if they are in a familiar environment. Also, they have a slight advantage when it comes to online communication because they are masters of the written word. Finally, their inherent ability to listen to others provides them with the edge over their extroverts colleagues.”
Regardless of your sensibilities, our guide on networking will help you expand your network of contacts, without feeling bad about it.
1. Network in a Familiar Environment
Even though networking events are the best place to meet other people, you are not going to feel like attending if you are an introvert. This is where extroverts have the upper hand. But, you can find other networking opportunities in places where you already feel comfortable.
By choosing your own environment, you will be more likely to talk to someone new and socialize, not to mention more relaxed and confident. But what about those instances where you won’t be able to choose the setting which you prefer?
The answer lies within habits or small routines that you can rely on once you find yourself in an unfamiliar environment. Have you ever noticed the way you tend to check your phone in a situation like that? Well, the good news is, everyone does the same thing.
Sure, it’s a habit, but there is some science behind it. Habits allow our brain to perform certain actions automatically, which frees up its resources to deal with other things, like networking, for example.
It doesn’t take long before you start feeling uncomfortable again, but it might buy you just enough time to relax and warm to those around you.
2. Be Prepared
The reason why people, especially introverts, are uncomfortable with networking is that they are afraid they will say something inappropriate, and then embarrass themselves in front of the crowd. While it may not be the most logical reasoning, it can still have a very real effect on you.
The solution would be to prepare yourself and run through some of the scenarios inside your head.
As strange as it sounds, it is actually a great exercise, because you get to practice guiding your conversation, as well as anticipating potential questions and answers coming from the person you are talking to. Try and imagine who else is going to be there, which shouldn’t be too difficult if you are an introvert, and inside your head most of the time.
Another thing you can do is to arrive there early. We’ve already mentioned the effect your environment can have on you. Provide yourself with enough time to start feeling comfortable.
And when the time comes to have a conversation with someone, don’t feel obligated to take in part in conversations you don’t want to, or make promises you are not going to keep. Be genuine and give your word only if you intend to keep it.
3. Set Your Networking Goal
You will be able to get a lot more out of your networking efforts if you have a goal in the first, instead of networking aimlessly and waiting to see where it takes you.
Consider the following example: you want to earn your first million in the next 10 years. That will be your goal. Then start thinking of smaller goals that might lead up to that, such as the actions you need to take in the next five years. Then come with a goal you need to fulfill in the next 12 months.
And you can get even more specific, and set a 90-day goal. For example, the first step might be to create your blog and social media accounts through which you will promote your online business.
Then focus on making your first sale, or converting the first 100 leads into customers. After that, you can come up with a list of people you need to get in touch within order to grow your company, and so on.
4. Meet the Right People
Another integral component for success, aside from having a goal, is getting in touch with the right people that will help you get to where you want to go. And the best thing about it is, they might already be among your contacts, or they might have someone in their own network which might be able to help.
For example, college mentors and professors will easily make the list, thanks to their extensive experience and knowledge.
Influencers inside your niche can help you build your reputation and get expose you to a much wider audience. And sometimes the people who can help you the most aren’t industry experts. Your clients can spread the word about your service or product, and promote your brand.
If you are looking to expand your business, you will need to find investors who are willing to finance your ideas, so look for them, as well.
Finally, there are those people who are called super connectors. More information about them in the following paragraph.
5. Connect Super-connectors with Each Other
Super connectors have a large network of contacts, and if you manage to get on their good side, they will be able to connect you to just about anyone. Their role is even more important considering the fierce competition, which can make it hard for you and your business to stand out.
And things get even better if you have two super connectors in your network because then you have the option of introducing them to one another. You are not going to benefit from it right away, because they are simply two people which you already know.
However, because all super connectors share similar traits, they will get along great and enjoy the benefits of each other’s networks. It won’t be long before they start returning the favors because they are givers. That’s one of the things that makes them super connectors.
The best thing you can do when it comes to networking is to treat your relationship with your contact as a friendship. That doesn’t mean you should hang out, but it does mean not rushing things, and waiting for things to develop naturally. Nurture your relationship, give and receive, and follow up every once in a while. It’s genuine, yet it will produce results.