My network is my net worth. I’m not sure where this saying originated from however I do believe there is truth to it. The connections we make and the community we have around us is often where work, referrals and collaboration come from which in turn may create income.
Networking whether in person or online is all social networking.
I watched an old movie recently where at a party the older woman was encouraging the younger girl to “circulate”. It could be called mingling or working the room but it shouldn’t be thought of as work. Socialising is meant to be fun and a way to make friends.
I enjoy networking – and socialising, yet I know many who don’t, and I must say it does take practise. However, getting out and about and getting to know people who may become good acquaintances and even friends is definitely a worthwhile exercise.
We learn so much about other people and develop more meaningful relationships when we meet face to face. With the ease of technology today we do rely so much on email however, there’s no real substitute for being in front of somebody.
I’ve been to a number of events over the past few weeks where women (and men) have chatted away happily. Yet I know sometimes it can feel a bit awkward at a formal event particularly if going alone or you don’t know anyone there.
It has happened to me. I walked into a busy function after a conference where I had been speaking. They all knew each other – it was an industry event and I’d only met one or two people. So straight to the bar I go for a glass of reinforcement! After a few minutes conversation started taking place.
I think if we treat networking more like socialising it will feel a lot easier and more enjoyable.
Attending numerous events can be expensive and time consuming. So why not just start local and attend a few functions to determine which ones suit you. Perhaps then just choose one or two where you feel comfortable to attend regularly or join. Contribute if you can and join the committee. You will further your connections and you will even make friends.
If you are working for an organisation you may feel that you don’t need to network. Your job is enough. But employment can be quite tenuous these days so it pays to build a network for perhaps those future work opportunities.
In-house there are still ways to mingle.
Get up from the desk and talk to somebody instead of sending emails all the time. Spend 10 minutes chatting to a co-worker during your lunch break rather than checking the iPhone. Just say hello to people – greet the newcomer – make them feel welcome.
Strike up a conversation and ask people how they are, what their weekend was like. Being at ease in conversation will help when you are out at more formal networking events.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks to networking successfully involves knowing the best way to start a conversation. Suggestions include: sport (often a great conversation starter!)
Even if neither you or the people you are talking to are interested in football or golf, it may lead to a conversation about what you are interested in. If you’ve done some prior research you can discuss a topical or newsworthy item.
Also try to establish something in common between you and the person you are speaking to that is not necessarily related to your business. For example, you may have both been to the same holiday destination.
Some other ideas to break the ice and begin a conversation are:
- What is the most interesting project you are working on at the moment?
- Tell me about your business.
- What line of work are you in?
- What do you do?
- How long have you been in that role?
- Where are you based?
- How did you get started in business?
- Do you have expansion plans for your business?
- Trends in the industry – what impact do you think XYZ will have?
- Do you find it difficult to find the right staff/contractors?
- How long have you been living and working in City/Suburb/Country?
- Can you recommend any great restaurants/places to see?
- What do you do in your spare time?
- Where did you get those fabulous shoes/necklace?
I have more networking tips in my book IMPRESSario – Present and Promote the Star Within You. Find out more here.
If you would like to know a bit more about personal branding,download my free video series, your NOOK, LOOK, HOOK, 3 Steps to Build a Stand out Personal Brand.
Sue Currie is a speaker and the author of IMPRESSario, Present and Promote the Star Within You. She is recognised as a leading authority on personal branding to boost image, profile, brand and business. Through her image management and profile building programs, workshops, consulting and keynote presentations, Sue helps businesses and entrepreneurs position and present an influential professional brand.
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