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Networking Skills

This week’s article is about networking and developing your networking skills. It isn’t just about going to a networking event with lots of business cards and introducing yourself along the lines of: “Hello, my name’s David and I run great training courses. So, what do you do?”… and then expect to win lots of business! 

Networking is about getting to really know people, how you can help them and how they can help you, in order to create a mutually beneficial relationship.

Ask yourself. What can you learn from other people?

They might be in a different business or industry to you, so ask yourself:

  • what are their challenges?
  • how do they work?
  • and what are their thoughts, ideas or experiences?

All this free learning is right there in front of you, so make sure you don’t miss out on it.

It’s important to network well with people in your business, but do you know how your business really works? Most of us work in silos, concentrating solely on our own areas of expertise, so we need to get out there and talk to people, we need to have great questions to ask them. We can obtain all this free learning from our networks.

I think the golden rule of networking should be as follows:

“I know what I think and what I do, but in order to learn more, I need to go and find out what others think and what others do.”

This mindset will create more opportunities and you will learn more.

Listening effectively is a great way to make a positive impact when you meet somebody for the first time. If you can show that you are really interested in them by asking intelligent questions and listening well, you can then ask more relevant questions so you can get to know and understand that person quickly. You get to find out about them and how you could potentially help them or benefit from knowing them. People like to be listened to and will see you as a positive influence by doing more listening than talking. Naturally you need to talk but talk about topics that are of interest to the other person rather than just trying to sell yourself.

I once nearly took up smoking because a colleague of mine smoked and always seemed to know more about what was going on in the business than the rest of the team. His career progressed faster than ours as opportunities and good projects always seemed to come his way. He used to sit at his desk facing the corridor where the senior managers had their offices, his cigarettes and lighter always ready for action next to his computer. He would wait for certain senior managers to come out of their office to go for a cigarette, and then quickly follow them. He was a fabulous networker and got into lots of great informal conversations with senior managers which generated ideas and opportunities.

Now I am not encouraging people to take up smoking, but it does make you think —networking certainly worked for him.

When networking externally, try to get others to talk as this is all free information: how do they do things and generate ideas? People often like to boast about what they do and in doing so, will give you too much information.

  • Where helps you to think differently and why? Who do you need to know better in your business? (people to connect with / business partners). When networking, what can you do for them? Who do you need to build a relationship with outside your business and why? Who can help you in your career: friends and family, a work mentor?
  • Who would be good to keep in contact with — old colleagues, friends from school / education / university?
  • How frequently do you purposefully spend time networking to expand your exposure in your working world? Would you benefit from increasing this time? What opportunities are available to you?
  • Who inspires you?
  • Who helps you to think differently and why?

Networking on social media is a great way of keeping in contact and up-to-date with what people are doing. Add your comment of support but don’t try and hijack posts (this often happens) — remember, it’s not all about you.

Being well-read will allow you to have a balanced input into conversations, but don’t unduly exaggerate your knowledge, otherwise you can get quickly caught out and look very stupid very quickly. Don’t compete and try to outdo your new contact. Don’t get into heated debates; instead, let the other party have their say and move on — at least you will have made them feel good about themselves, which could ultimately work in your favour.

Build contacts by sending your contacts posts or articles that are of interest and are relevant or of value to them. When you hear about an industry event or a good networking opportunity that’s worth attending, pass the information on to interested contacts, and let them know why you thought it might benefit them.

Extracts taken from Chapter Four: Managing Your Key Skill Sets – Future Proof Yourself by David Yeabsley. 

You can find more details on this and other future proofing yourself ideas in my new book: Future Proof Yourself via:

The Endless Bookcase or Amazon

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