The word – “networking” makes many people confused as many see it as a business activity to serve oneself and we need to act in a different way. Many view it as insincere at best, manipulative at worst. In fact, networking is supposed to be genuine and friendly.
Reid Hoffman, the guru of networking and also the co-founder of LinkedIn, said that building a genuine relationship with another person depends on at least two abilities. The first is seeing the world from another person’s perspective; the second ability is being able to think about how you can collaborate with and help the other person rather than thinking about what you can get.
These two abilities are the foundations to get the best out of networking.
Networking is about making connections and building mutually beneficial, enduring relationships. At the end of the day, it is not just about who you know, but more importantly who knows you.
When I first arrived in Washington D.C., I literally knew no one. I had no choice but to network smartly and reached out to the right people. On my first International Finance lecture at Marymount University, Professor Scott Sibbald reminded the class: “To be successful in the business world, network – as if your life depends on it.”
Later whenever I joined conferences like Clinton Global Initiative University or interning in the World Bank Group, I learnt networking, built up a strong supportive group and made good friends over the cause.
These are 10 tips on getting the Best out of Networking which I learnt from books, friends and experiences.
1. Have a plan – know what you want to achieve after the networking session.
Set a goal and be prepared in any networking session. Are you going to look for job opportunities, project funding or a co-founder?
2. Be clear about what you do.
Tell a story about yourself in 60s. Include your most up-to-date works and what you are looking for.
3. It’s far more important to understand their needs before you tell them about your needs.
People are selfish. We always care about ourselves first. So, show interest to other’s needs and they will do the same.
4. You don’t need to know the most people, just the right people.
More is not always the better. It is more meaningful to connect with 5 people who can actually help you rather than getting 50 business cards without much interaction.
5. Start by offering praise, not requesting help.
Everyone loves to be praised – but do it genuinely. Get to know each other more before start requesting for help.
6. Remember names
A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language – Dale Cargenie.
7. Ask open-ended questions
An open-ended question requires an answer greater than a single word or two. A closed-ended question can be answered with a simple “Yes,” “No,” or other very simple answer.
Perhaps the most famous (or infamous) open-ended question is “How does this make you feel?”
8. Be a connecter – Try to provide as much value as you possibly can – networking is about helping others too.
Don’t hesitate to share your network or connect two persons you know personally – if they could be a great partner in business or building new friendships.
Yes, networking is about helping each other.
9. Don’t worry about rejection. It’s OK to get a No.
You’ll meet people who can’t or don’t want to help you. That’s the reality of life. Just don’t take it too seriously. Move on.
10. Follow up
I personally like how Reid Hoffman describes relationships.
Relationships are living, breathing things. Feed, nurture, and care about them; they grow. Neglect them; they die. You might be nodding your head at the importance of staying in touch.
Send a follow up email or a thank you note after your encounter. Write down where did you meet this person and what impression do you have to him or her.