(2 minutes read)
At the beginning of my professional career I was full of energy, ideas, excitement and … incredible arrogance. I simply believed that the world is waiting for me and there was no need to connect with other people. A lesson came quickly and my arrogance had to turn into curiosity.
There is absolutely no possibility that we know everything. However, when we meet other people we can talk to them, we can ask questions or we can answer their questions. Meaningful connection will enrich us and them. We will be able to build and benefit from our NETWORK.
Networking could be a source of knowledge, and it could help us to build a meaningful business relationship, it could be a boost for our development or it could be a social even only, when people connect and talk.
There are two ways of expanding your network. You can re-connect with a person you know or met in the past or you can connect with somebody you do not know at all.
Personally, I believe that pandemic in case of networking was at the same time a challenge and an opportunity. For many months we could not see people in person. Human interactions have been massively disrupted. On the other hand, we could use technology to reach out to people easily, potential network is broader and deeper. As there is no need to travel you do not need much to connect with somebody. It takes a few minutes only to send an email or invite. Then you need to have a fast internet connection and a cup of coffee.
Below there are five critical steps during networking.
- PERSONAL REFLECTION
Before you start connecting with people you need to self-reflect on your needs and goals. What actually do you want to achieve? An objective should be specific, clear and achievable. Do you want to expand your network? Do you want to develop some specific competencies? Do you want to go broader or deeper? You could prepare a list of meaningful questions you could ask during networking events or individual interactions.
Before your act you need to think what value you can bring as well. How you can contribute when you establish a new relationship? It is not a one-way communication.
- NETWORKING MAP
Once you know what do you want to achieve you can review what is already in place. Take a blank piece of paper and draw you current network map. Put down the names of people you have met or you have connected in the past, even if you have not spoken with them for years.
Knowing what are your needs and what is your current networking map, you can start writing people you wish they were part of your network. Do not be a minimalist and put as many names as you wish. Be aspirational and brave!
- GETTING READY
Before you start connecting with people there is one more important step in the process. Do not forget to update your CV and to refresh your LinkedIn profile. Content is important. Ensure that there is an actual and professional photo uploaded as well.
Practise listening skills and taking notes. Those skills are crucial during meetings and will help you to ask follow up questions and to understand.
- NETWORKING STRATEGY
Finally, after the first three critical steps, you are ready to act. Break out of your bubble you are currently in and connect with people from your wish list.
The easiest way is to send them invites via LinkedIn. In a short email you could explain why you are reaching out to them and what you are looking for. Ask them for help or feedback on a situation you are dealing with, an article you are writing or a project you are working on.
Additionally you can participate in an online event or attend a conference. Being active on social media (LinkedIn, Twitter), joining some discussion or groups will create a possibility to present you point of view, share your comments or ask questions.
Review established connections on LinkedIn. May a person you know is connected to somebody you want to reach out? Getting a recommendation will speed up a process of networking.
Re-connecting with somebody you met in the past will be a low hanging fruit.
- FOLLOW UP
When you finally connect with new people, arrange a virtual or real meeting. Ensure that this is not a one off event, that you do not lose something which was so difficult to establish. Note in your “to do” list next time you will connect to a person from your network.
It would be also practical and efficient to refresh the network every 6 months.
Engagements with new people will be an interesting intellectual stimulation for you. They will bring diversity, a new point of view. They will ask you challenging and provocative questions. Your brain will crash with creativity of other great minds.
Enjoy the Power of Networking!
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