How to Network Like A Champion
A few simple tips that work in any industry.
In almost any industry, networking is essential to professional growth. No matter how strong your personal branding or impressive your credentials, people want to work with people they know and like – people that make them feel good and comfortable to be around … people who they TRUST.
For some, networking is easy! For others, networking may not come so easy. It’s a skill that takes practice. So, if you’re looking to take the next step in your career, here are some tips to go beyond the wine and cheese happy hour and make meaningful, lasting connections.
First and foremost, have confidence.
Everyone in this world has unique talents and gifts. There is no one person that is exactly like you, has what you have to offer, or can deliver your service the way that you do. It’s incredibly important to have that knowing in your heart. When you step into a room, it may be awkward, and your past experiences or present perceptions may have you feeling nervous about making new connections. That is ok, and most likely, many other people in the room feel similar. That’s because networking with new people in new places can make you feel vulnerable. However, if you can develop an inner knowing that you are unique and special (because you are), you can build your confidence to take the next important steps to Network Like a Champion.
Communicate the value you offer, rather than what you want from others.
People are seeking what you are offering, and if you can show the value a person will receive from working with you (the why and the result), some may move mountains to have the opportunity to work with you. How can you develop the ability to communicate the value you bring? Practice! Practice going into events, meetings, and even one-on-one conversations with a clear understanding of the value you bring. How could your unique set of experiences, background, talents, and interests benefit potential companies or partners? Let that shape the conversation, rather than your own objectives.
This doesn’t mean you have to recite every bullet point on your resume. But take some time before networking opportunities to prepare and reflect on the value you offer to potential contacts. Why should they work with you?
Whether you’re early in your career or a CEO, you should feel comfortable communicating your unique value (not just your title or explaining “what you do.”) If you want to figure out the best way to get the message across or you need help in building your value (the why and the result), I can help.
Practice active listening.
Many of us think about what we want to say next in the conversation, rather than truly listening to the person talking. Focus your attention on them. Ask follow-up questions and try to figure out what they’re really interested in – not just the small talk formalities. If people don’t feel listened to, they won’t feel like you care. This is where being kind comes back into play. The better you listen, the more you can truly hear what their needs are. That way you can shape your value proposition and make a much stronger connection and build a potential opportunity. You would be in service to them and yourself. It’s a very reciprocal relationship.
Active listening is a skill in itself. Think about your active listening skills in other aspects of your life, so it comes naturally when you’re engaging with new contacts.
Build personal connections, show interest and compassion.
When it comes down to it, you’re way more than just a resume or LinkedIn bio. Your personal interests, passions, and values should be important to any potential employer or business partner.
So, venture outside the 9-5. If someone seems passionate about hiking or volunteering or knitting dog sweaters, find out more! Chances are you’ll learn what really makes them tick – which is even more important than the basics of their workday. Develop the habit of caring about others. Far too often, in today’s world, it’s hard to find people who truly care about the activities and lives of others. Caring about the wellbeing of others (personal and professional) will set you apart from the pack!
All of my personal and professional experiences have shaped who I am, and why I do what I do. So why focus only on previous employment?
Leverage the Digital Media Space: follow up by following them.
You made your first impression. Now you need to keep the conversation going after you both leave, and the business card gets tossed. Take it upon yourself to make the first move. Most people are appreciative of kindness, and if you can nurture this trait, it will take you a long way.
The most natural way to do that is through social media or in an email.
- The follow-up is crucial. If you have a great conversation with someone who shares your professional goals, add them on LinkedIn or Facebook the next day. You might even want to drop a line. Let them know you appreciate their tips on recruiting a new intern or cooking the perfect steak; something short and sweet to keep communications open.
- Send an email: While most people have social media channels, you might also want to follow up with an email. That way, you keep things very professional. Ensure the new contact has your phone number and email, and if there was something you discussed that you had in common or piqued your interest, send some follow up information. Leave room for a potential follow up meeting or coffee – or better yet, schedule one!
- Keep in touch with your existing network. We tend to focus our energy on meeting new people. But keep in mind that you already have an audience of hundreds in your Facebook and LinkedIn feeds. So, don’t be shy; share your professional successes or passions.
- Refresh your profiles. Make sure you have a current headshot and updated employer information. For extra credit, explore some newer features like adding media files to your LinkedIn portfolio. But you don’t have to fill up your feed with work-only posts. You’re a real person; real people take photos of their cat and their homemade sangria. But be careful – you don’t want to post anything that is unprofessional. Think before you post.
- Branch out. Professional contacts are no longer restricted to LinkedIn. Many of your connections will primarily use Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter – so it doesn’t hurt to stay present on multiple channels.
Reach out to one or two people you really want to meet.
There are people in your community who can offer advice, contacts, or even a job. Take the initiative and reach out! If you need help building that confidence, trusting in your uniqueness, and communicating your value (the why and the results), I can and would love to help you.
If their contact information is publicly available on their company website or LinkedIn, offer to take them to coffee in exchange for some professional insight. Explain (briefly) what your interests or goals are, and mention the aspects of their career that you’re really interested in. In today’s busy world, if they’re not interested in meeting, schedule a call, and be detailed about what you’re looking to accomplish on that call. Time is very valuable, and if someone is going to extend their precious time to you, you want to be respectful of that. Create an agenda so you can be on point. That contact will appreciate that – and remember or organizational skills in the future.
If this sounds intimidating, I get it! And I’m here for you – let’s talk about ways to get the conversation going.
I’ve worked with professionals across a range of industries. I love helping people grow by removing obstacles and tapping into their hidden gifts to see their career take off. If you’re looking for other ways to elevate your career and achieve high levels of success, let’s chat!