Why Should You Learn How to Network?
I recently was asked to speak to a group of college juniors and seniors about networking in the “real world” and why they should embrace the power of networking. I was more than happy to volunteer and spend time with these young, eager, and soon-to-be professionals headed out into our work force. After doing some research and presenting on this topic a few times, I have surprisingly discovered a huge gap in what people really know about networking as opposed to what I thought they knew.
As background on my experience, I spent 13 years with a large corporation where we were fed 95% of the information we needed to do our jobs. Networking, other than with our current client base, was not really important as a part of our day to day jobs. In my current role with Avancos, people ask me what I do and I answer that I have become a professional networker, a consultant.
To those who know Avancos or have done business with Avancos, this isn’t too shocking. But, we’ll get into that a little more below. First a little of the how to of networking.
a person who interacts or exchanges information with others working in a similar field, esp. to further their career.
Reading this definition one might think that this is just a self-centered, selfish act done to further their own career. What I have found (and share during my talks with college students and others), is the contrary. It is not a self-centered, selfish act, and in fact, when done properly, it is a selfless act that puts someone else’s needs (personal or professional) in front of your own.
Here are three main key points to know when networking either online or in person:
- Don’t be afraid
- Be helpful to others before yourself
- Be passionate and relevant
Don’t be afraid to reach out to people within your industry or whom you think could benefit from having a business relationship with you. Even when you reach out to someone more senior than yourself, you can position yourself as trying to learn more or gain experience, which is truly the case. This in effect positions your new connection as a mentor. If done correctly, this will get your potential connection to look more favorably upon your request. Once this is established you can then move to point number 2 and find a way to be helpful to your new connection.
Be helpful to others first or simply put, be selfless. Once you are able to connect with someone make sure you show value to them prior to asking for anything for yourself. Doing this will prove that you are willing to be open and share information. The more relevant to your connection the value is, the more they will appreciate the connection. The trick at this point is that you have to really want to help people and to give them something. If you are just doing this to advance your position or gain business you will fail. A quote from Zig Zigler fits with this piece, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” You must gain your connections trust and this will take time and patience.
Passion and relevance are keys to growing and connecting with people. Believing in what you are doing and having the ability to communicate your relevant information is critical. Your excitement to connect with them and at the same time, giving relevant information that matters to THEM goes a long way. This will then start the process to become a connection and develop your relationship as a consultant and someone they can trust. This is a part of networking you cannot fake. Remember, put yourself last and your connection first to build a rewarding long term relationship.
And now back to the part above about Avancos… In 2001 when Avancos was founded, it was founded by people who embodied these three points. They didn’t see any of their competitors acting in this manner. The market was dominated by self-centered and selfish companies, putting themselves before the customer. So when I state that it shouldn’t be a shock that I see my job as being a professional networker after having been a cog in a giant wheel for 13 years, it is due to the fact that Avancos has molded me into something that I always knew I was, helpful to others. And like everyone else here, I’m passionate about what we do. I’ve seen what Talent Intelligence can do to help our customers grow.
Putting all three of these points to work for you will put you on your way to building a great network. You will not be able to get 100% of the people to connect with you, but over time and by setting goals for yourself, you will start to see your network and influence grow. Be persistent and patient throughout the process!!
Images: GARY LITTLETON, zigziglar.com