Nothing is quite as fulfilling as having your support system on speed dial. People in your circle tremendously impact on your growth and success, whether in business or career.
In today’s business and professional world, networks account for the majority of opportunities that come your way. It is within these networks that referrals for business take place. If a job seeker, knowing people in the right places could get you closer to your dream job.
Through her experience, May Nyaga, the Head of Human Resources at Copy Cat Ltd and a career expert, has had to rethink networking etiquette. She shares tips that will help you to rock it as you connect with other professionals.
Be specific and direct
Selling your trade should not be very hard. Seize the first opportunity to make your contacts know what you do. The sooner you make clear what you hope to achieve from an interaction, the higher your chances of being taken seriously. Do not waste time on banter that leads nowhere. But even as you do this, let your tone and language be polite. Be assertive but respectful.
Spark off thought-provoking conversations
We are inclined to follow a unique line of thought and to hear exciting stories. Choose your words carefully and go for punch lines that will get people listening to you. The first few lines that you drop, including how you introduce yourself, shape people’s attitude towards you. If you inspire charisma, it becomes easier for people to pay attention. Clichés tend to repel, so avoid them.
Have reasonable expectations
What do you hope to achieve from your new acquaintance? It is easy to be disenchanted when our expectations are not met.
Keep expectations to a minimum. Prioritise on knowing people first. When you demonstrate a willingness to pursue long-lasting friendships, business connections follow suit quite effortlessly. Besides, not all interactions lead to fruitful business engagements.
Do not push your luck
Do not be too aggressive otherwise you will seem pushy. You may be polished in your skills or have a great business idea, but you cannot force either down someone’s throat.
Professionals will usually dismiss and cut you off if you try to impose yourself on them. It is upon the other party to enquire about your products or skill, if interested.
Social events are for creating networks, not for job-hunting or pushing sales.
Never underestimate people
To understand the competences and depth of ideas of those you meet for the first time, avoid judging until you closely interact with them.
Some reserved personalities sometimes turn out to harbour a wealth of ideas. The quietest individual at the cocktail could just be the bridge to your career breakthrough. Give a fair audience.
Do not be a card spammer
Are you the type that pumps business cards into every hand you meet at conferences? It is unprofessional to go dishing your business cards to people who have not sought them.
When you create good rapport and gain someone’s trust, and you both agree to pursue the conversation further, you can then offer your card. It is pointless to share your address with someone who will never get in touch with you.
Make fewer quality networks
It does not make sense to have a large web of professionals that yield too little. A network is only necessary to the extent that you and the other person benefit from each other’s referrals for business. If possible, keep a small network of people who can support your growth. A large network is not only overwhelming, it also creates confusion and is difficult to manage.
Offer your help
Why are you in your current networks? To offer solutions or to benefit from other people’s ideas? It is selfish and unethical to create networks where you are always the beneficiary, not the benefactor.
Offer assistance whenever you can to members of your network without expecting a return of the favour.
What is the occasion?
Not all circumstances are suitable for making acquaintances. It is intrusive and offensive to attempt to sell your credentials to a stranger, say, in a restaurant or public transport.
Follow up and follow through
It is easy to make the acquaintance of someone, but to keep the conversation going can be quite hard, especially for busy professionals. Seeking to know how your acquaintances are faring in their endeavours shows genuine interest and cultivates the relationship for mutual benefit.
Do not ask for someone’s card if you do not intend to get in touch with them
If you offer to help someone make another person’s acquaintance, honour your word. Productive business relations are built on trust. To earn trust, you must keep your word.
Introduce people within your network
As a professional, it is your responsibility to foster deeper relationships within your network by letting other professionals know the range of services each member of the circle offers.
This is the essence of networking: creating networks within the network. A human resource manager can establish a working relationship with a career coach, for instance. Do not hoard information. When you are the pivot of your network, you stand to benefit more.
Keep your networks up to date
Once you have made acquaintances, it is important to update your network database. Record contact details and the type of business that the persons offer.
This makes retrieval easier should you need to reach out to them, than having to rummage through a stack of hundreds of business cards.
Make the most of the people you meet at cocktails, workshops and even long haul trips. When business is hard to push, at least establish a friendship. A smart professional makes every interaction count.