Networking 101: Basics you need to know

Networking 101: Basics you need to know

1200 900 Brenda Akinyi

Time and again we hear that building the right connections and networking is crucial to career advancement or scaling a business. But how do you actually build your network?

In this blog we’ll share key points on how to get started and maintain great relationships with your connections!

#1: Drop your personal agenda.

Successful people always look for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people always ask “What’s in it for me?”

  • At networking events, it can be tempting to jump on the opportunity to ask about job openings l or hand out tons of business cards. However, let this be the last thing on your mind.
  • Instead, come with an open mind. Seek out ways you can use your knowledge and skills to help out others. Most events will have an agenda or may be tailored to your industry, thus will give you an idea of what you can talk about.
  • Don’t reach out to others only when you need something from them. Be generous and aim to provide a benefit to others before asking for a favor.

#2: Listening is everything — listen actively and intently.

Everyone you meet knows something you don’t.

  • Ask questions about what the other party is doing. You will be surprised that while you may work in the same industry, they have knowledge in areas you may not, and vice-versa.
  • Watch your body language! Face the speaker, smile, maintain eye contact and do not interrupt your partner.
  • Be present. Then you’ll notice when you start drifting from the conversation and be able to regain your focus.

#3: Stay in touch with your networks:

After the networking ends, staying in touch with contacts is just as important as getting them in the first place

  • Building meaningful relationships with others involves a high level of communication. Check in on your connections periodically. Send an email or text to say “hello” or connect on social media. For example, you could share or retweet your contacts’ posts with a thoughtful comment. Congratulate them on promotions or achievements.
  • This can also help in strengthening your more subtle relationships like former schoolmates or old colleagues.

#4: Diversify your network:

If your network is filled with people who are all the same, you’re limiting your room for growth.

  • Find ways to connect with people outside of your industry. Do this to avoid making your network “clumpy.”
  • A diverse network opens up doors to help you meet people you otherwise would not and can be instrumental in your career or business growth.
  • Push yourself to engage in conversations about topics outside your usual context. Try attending an event outside of your industry or department. To make this less intimidating, start by reading some articles related to that field or sign up for an industry-focused email newsletter.
  • An easier way to start doing this is by starting in your own organization. Talk to people in different departments and get to know what a day in their professional life looks like. Get to learn about their interests outside of work and build on that.

#5: Get out there!

It’s not about who you know, it’s about who knows you!

  • Learning to network is not easy, but with practice, you’ll get better. Attend events, reach out to people, ask questions, and seek advice and guidance on how to start and build strong networks.
  • Find out ways you can contribute to what others need. Build a reputation for being reliable. Follow through with any promises made and remember not to over-commit.
  • The only way people will remember you is by the impact you made. “If your presence does not make an impact, your absence won’t make a difference”

#6: Don’t forget the basics:

Winning friends begins with friendliness.

  • Be on time.
  • Carry your business cards.
  • Be friendly!

Learning and understanding the art of networking is crucial to ensuring that we put ourselves out there and discover the of opportunities around us. In our next series, we’ll dive into how you can follow up after your meetup. Stay tuned!