Reading this article about Networking I was reminded of the importance of the subject to developing an enjoyable and successful career.
The first few points on this list are key; the rest is sound common sense. However people don’t tend to realise how important networking can be, mainly because it is, by its very nature, surprising. It should be. Meeting new people and making connections should be spontaneous and exciting, not the arduous or Machiavellian process it is sometimes seen as.
At its heart, networking is simply about connecting with people and maintaining the relationships that follow. When going into any situation; especially the next business conference, ‘Town hall’ meeting or team offsite / away-day, you can be thinking about what your skills are and how you can help other people. We all accept that – “it’s not what you know but who you know”. With Networking “who knows you” could be more important!
People I train often tell me that they feel uncomfortable when “selling” themselves or trying to impress others. That feeling probably results from them trying too hard to force themselves and their ideas onto those others. In fact, the most powerful skill in Networking (as with most communication) is listening. Trying to understand where the other person is coming from, what’s important to them and why they’re saying what they’re saying at that precise moment. And after listening, the next most powerful Networking skill is probing with open questions. Discovering some area of mutual interest, some mutual acquaintance, some way in which you can be of help to each other. But doing so without forcing it. If a connection arises, explore it. If it doesn’t, keep listening, keep questioning.