I’m not great at networking, but I know it’s important. Society is this huge chain of people linked together, and it’s the people we meet who help get us to the places we want to be. So I often have to push myself to get out there and forge professional releationships.
This kind of thing comes naturally to some people. They can do it like it`s the easiest thing in the world. One of my neighbours, for example, was just born gregarious, and she meets and befriends people from all walks of life and places.
I’m serious: You should see one of her parties. There’s a beadmaker sitting next to a production assistant who’s sitting next to a insurance broker; that kind of thing.
I was never like that. In fact, the whole Ìt`s not what you know, it`s whom you know thing really used to irritate me. But it’s true. You have to network. The people you know get you in touch with the people who need your skills and services.
So in honour of that, here are 5 habits of the successful networker.
1. BE VALUABLE
No, seriously. What do you do? What can you offer? What are your skills?
Before engaging in conversation with a potential networkee, ask yourself those questions. What could you bring to the table? If you’re selling snake oil, then networking can only get you so far.
2. DON’T ONLY TALK UP YOURSELF
About.com’s Lahle Wolfe writes, “The two most important networking skills you can develop are listening and asking questions. These two skills will impress your clients even more than your best business statistics. Why? Because listening validates the value of others and shows respect. Talking too much is rude, dominating, and not reciprocal. Asking thoughtful questions shows sincerity and builds trust because it actively shows an interest in someone’s opinions and thoughts.”
Plus, people love talking about themselves, and they love when people are interested in them. I love it; you love it, too. Letting someone chat excitedly about their project increases the chances that they’ll want to keep talking to you.
3. STAY IN TOUCH
I have a hard time staying in touch with people. Sending a quick e-mail, Facebook message, giving them a call; those are all things that don’t come naturally to me. But it’s imporant. Even if someone doesn’t have any work for you, that doesn’t mean you can vanish and then pop up when it’s convenient.
Networking is about building professional relationships, and that requires some investment on your part. Make sure to follow up with people and remind them that you exist. Don’t always trust people to remember that you’re involved.
4. DON’T PUSH, BUT DON’T OFFER OUTS
If your networkee seems reluctant to discuss the project, or doesn’t want to discuss anything business-related, go ahead and abort that mission. Being persistant is important, but being pushy means that they soon won’t want to talk to you at all.
At the same time, people generally want to take the path of least resistance. If they have the option to not expend energy, they’ll take it. So when asking to discuss plans, projects, etc., don’t offer an out.
Ask, “When should we meet to discuss this?” not “Can we discuss this this week, or are you busy?” If they’re busy, they’ll tell you.
5. DON’T NETWORK ALL THE DAMN TIME
I’m a writer, so I rarely go to professional/networking events. It’s not like I’m working the trade shows, or showing up at publisher events.
But I do hang around with a lot of artists, actors, designers, etc., and they have a lot of parties. Those parties often become the linchpin of an artist’s career, the place where they meet with people they can work for in the future.
So if you’re someone who goes to a lot of those parties, you learn very quickly that there are some people who are thinking about their career all the time. They’re always thinking career-first, and even a friendly chat turns into a power lunch.
Don’t be one of those people. Relax a bit. Your friends aren’t going to want to hang around you if you’re always scrabbling for purchase.
Wait for the right moment, because it will come. Your job is to get yourself out there, and to snatch the opportunity when it arrives.