Tuesday, 05 March 2019
Our networking 101 series will cover every element of growing your database of business connections, from finding the right people to connect with, to working the room and building meaningful relationships. In the first edition, we look at how you can lay the groundwork for a strong, professional network by first looking at your own mindset.
So you’ve decided you want to build or grow a professional network. Congratulations – you’ve taken the first step towards a more fulfilling, opportunity-filled career.Before you start reaching out and attending events, it’s worth taking a moment to tap into your emotions and mindset around networking, ironing out, in the process, any blockers or limiting beliefs you may have that will hold you back.
If you’re new to networking or dipping your toe back in the water after a period out of loop, you might be dealing with some negative feelings about the prospect. Don’t just brush these aside – examine them. Ask yourself the following questions:
“Whatever you have written down for the last question, it is important to know you will never be like this,” says Heather White from Smarter Networking. “Some people just get it wrong and use networking incorrectly. You don’t have to do that, so don’t let others put you off - remember to focus on your own definition of networking.”
There’s no doubt about it, taking yourself off to a networking event requires a big dollop of courage and a healthy dose of self-esteem. How confident are you feeling, on a scale of 1-10, about the prospect of building a network?
If you’re at the top of the scale, great. If there’s some room for improvement, ask yourself what it would take to nudge you just a few notches up the scale, e.g. pairing up with a friend or colleague, having a bit more small talk practice, working on your introductions or elevator pitch? Make a plan for how you’ll drive up your confidence over the coming weeks. And remember, the best way to build resilience to the fear of networking is to simply muster up the courage to step outside your comfort zone and go for it at a small-scale event.
In the introduction, we highlighted the importance of networking for finding new roles. In reality, building a professional network is about a lot more finding new business opportunties. In fact, it can take an extended period of relationship building for new opportunties to manifest through networking events. In many ways, the best time to start building your network is when you’re not looking for new employment. That way you’ve the opportunity to demonstrate who you are and what you do without the need for any hard sell when relationships are still in their formative stages.
Below is a list of reasons why you might have decided you need to start networking. Which ones resonate with you?
You have a clearer idea of what you’re looking for out of a network. Next, consider where those types of networks already exist that you can tap into For example, LinkedIn groups or at a local meet up? Ask yourself this same question for each of the items on your wish list.
What types of people do you already know who can help with any of the above? Work through the following networking ‘types’ and ask yourself who’s already in your circle.
Connectors: they’re happy and willing to help make introductions.
Influencers: they have power and make decisions.
Mentors: they offer advice and support when you need it.
Sponsor: happy to act as a reference or talk-up your achievements.
Experts: have a lot of knowledge on key issues.
Exes: past colleagues or clients.
Friends or family: who also know your industry or useful people within it.
Review the list and ask yourself:
Chances are you play various different roles to different individuals at different times. Have a look through the list of ‘types’ and ask yourself who might put you in each category. Who have you been a connector for? Who have you given great advice to? Who have you worked with previously who occasionally asks for favours or insight?
It’s important to realise that networking is about creating mutual benefits with your connections. “Don’t worry if you are not at the top of your game on any of the roles you have selected, you can work towards it,” says Heather White. “Once you are clear of your value to your contacts you will find that you will become part of their networks. Everything will come alive again!”