Whether you’re looking for a job, have a job, are hiring or even none of the above, networking can be invaluable part of who you are and what you do. But networking isn’t just about the free lunch (if there is one – and you know the old adage about that anyway). When it comes to the language of networking, be sure it’s all about them and less about you. Like advertising, networking is all about a “what’s in it for me” approach. But the approach needs to be turned around so that the person benefiting is your conversation partner and not you, yourself and you.
If and when you make the exchange about them and not you, you will find that opportunities begin to present themselves to you in ways you may not have even imagined.
If you want to get the most out of business networking and cultivate a network of endless referrals, follow these commandments:
1. Build, don’t sell: Don’t view your encounters as selling opportunities, but as relationship builders. Nobody wants to be cornered or pressured. You’re not “sponging” off of others for your own benefit (that approach will turn others off quickly).
2. Listen. Don’t go on and on about your experience, your business, your education or your significant other. Ask questions and listen to the answers so you can find some common ground upon which to have a real conversation.
3. Ask. Questions and comments about their companies and even their hobbies and families will get you further than just the typical, often boring business card exchange and small talk.
4. Be specific. Don’t generalize or assume when discussing what you do or what you are looking for. Give specific scenarios so your conversation partner knows how to help you should the opportunity arise.
5. Be a connector. Find ways to refer others to one another even when there is no direct benefit to your job or business situation.
The real work begins after the event. Follow up, preferably within 24 hours, with a handwritten card or e-mail (there are arguments for choosing one or the other, just make sure you do at least one).
If you’ve promised to give them a name, number, web address or other information about a potential customer, employee or business connection, be sure to follow through and send it along. If the situation warrants it, call them a few days later to arrange a time to meet for a coffee or have lunch and start from there.
Final thoughts: Remember, whether it is a job fair, a business event or even a social situation, treat networking as an exchange of ideas, information and experience.
Be generous in sharing your talents, experiences, and ideas, and the benefits will come back to you many times over.
Allison Nazarian is president and chief copywriter of Get It In Writing, a Florida-based company that helps businesses nationwide harness the power of words to sell, inform and publicize. Allison can be reached at 561.487.3917 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Copyright© Get It In Writing, Inc. May be reprinted without permission of Get It In Writing, Inc and Allison Nazarian if in full, unchanged format and with complete attribution to author.