In general, most people shy away from networking. This group of people would rather continue working in isolation, slaving each day and night in the hope that someone would eventually notice their efforts and recommend them to others. It is what is commonly known as the ‘Lone Ranger Mentality’.
Are you a ‘Lone Ranger?’
How many of you have the following thoughts:
- I can do this by myself!
- I don’t need anyone’s help!
- I know what needs to be done here!
- People do not want to be bothered, so I rather figure this out myself!
- I can’t let others know that I am uncertain – what will they think of me?
- What will people think of me if I approach them – I am supposed to know what I am doing?
If you have any one of these thoughts, then you would typically be considered to be a lone ranger!
So you are probably asking, “What is wrong with being a lone ranger? To answer this question, reflect on the following:
- Think about your top three achievements in life until now. Write these down.
- Were you able to achieve this on your own?
- Now write down the names of people (in your network) that helped you to achieve your goals?
- Now reflect on what you wish to achieve in the next 5 years.
- Fact: There will be at least 25 people that you need in order to realise your dreams!
In truth, we all can achieve our goals to a certain degree on our own. However, with a network of supportive people around us, we would most likely achieve those goals at a much faster rate and experience a greater level of personal growth at the same time!
“The systematic process of meeting people, learning about them, and establishing relationships so that all parties establish and expand a base of resources to support their endeavors”
President, Independence Capital Company
Networking consists of gathering, collecting, and distributing information.
When you contact people to let them know that you are looking for a referral, you are giving them information. Your focus is to distribute information to a sufficient number of people to make the connections that will best serve you in achieving your goal. If you focus on using networking as a means of distributing information, you should never experience rejection.
Rejection will only be experienced if you focus on a person within on your network responding to you in certain way!
Networking is about allowing you to use the vast resources around you to further your goals. When you share information for others to include in their networking data bank, you have thereby expanded your base of possible links.
Everyone has times of need. Some of the most rewarding and meaningful discussions take place when someone calls and says: “I am having difficulty with…what can you recommend?”
Asking for support is an important part to networking. Asking is not a sign of weakness
It is a sign of courage, strength and wisdom.
Networking is also about:
- Treating people with respect;
- Serving to the best of your ability; and
- Giving without expectation (an hence no obligations).
Just like a coin that has two sides – networking is about:
- Receiving AND Giving;
- Relationships AND Results;
- Persistence AND Trusting;
- Accepting Support AND Contributing;
- Promoting yourself AND Promoting other people;
Tip 1: Introduce yourself in a way that is clear, concise and generates interest
Be clear. Be concise. Be distinctive. Be relatable. Be engaging.
Poor: “Hello, my name is Keith Voss, Optometrist.
Better: “Hello, my name is Keith Voss and I help keep the world in focus. I am an optometrist.
Develop your self-introduction. Practice different approaches until it becomes a natural self-expression.
Tip 2: Reintroduce yourself to people rather than waiting for them to remember you
It is both courteous and professional to reintroduce yourself to someone you have met before. It relieves them of the awkwardness of trying to recall who you are.
Do not say: “Do you remember me?” Rather re-introduce yourself in a way that is polite and engages interest, “I know it has been a while, but I met you at…my name is…I was the committee member in charge of…”
Tip 3: Be at ease in groups and use conversation generators effectively
In a group, it may not be natural to formally introduce yourself immediately. However you can approach people with a simple statement that serves as an opener to the conversation:
- “How did you get involved with the club?
- “I hear the speaker today is a specialist in…”
- “I did not realise there would be such a crowd!”
From the above, the conversation should naturally flow to the next topic and then you can bring in your self-introduction that you practiced in Tip 1.
Tip 4: Be clear about your areas of expertise
Networking involves both giving yourself as a resource and recognising others, for the resource that they are. When you meet other people, you want to be clear on what areas you specialize in, so that it makes it easier for others to refer people to you.
For example, if you are a marathon runner, then you will know all the places to buy equipment, sportswear and have contacts with the best trainers.
The worst scenario in a networking environment is for you to have a shopping list of all the things that you can do, but are not an expert in. This confuses people and makes it difficult for them to refer others to you.
Tip 5: Nurture your network with calls, notes and gifts in a timely and appropriate manner
“Nurture” means to promote growth and development. Staying in touch with people will keep your network alive. Send a gift or note as soon as possible when another person has served you. “I appreciated,” or “Thank you for,” or “Congratulation on your…”
Send clippings and articles from papers or magazines.
By nurturing your network in this manner, you let others know that you are thinking of them in a way that is not expecting anything in return.
Tip 6: Prepare for networking events in order to maximise your opportunity
When you receive an invite to attend a networking event, ask yourself, ‘what do you want to accomplish on a personal / professional level from attending this event?’
If there is alignment to your professional goals, then read through the guest list and plan ahead – whom would you like to meet? Will there be people at the event that you can share information with to assist in achievement of their goals?
You can also plan and identify several conversation generators that will be suitable for the occasion.
Tip 7: Serve on a committee or board of an organisation
Serving on a committee or board provides an enhanced opportunity to learn, grow, participate and contribute. The more you participate in organisations, the more you will receive.
As a committee or board member, you create more visibility for yourself while gaining new stature as a participant, contributor, and leader.
Participation through leadership provides a solid foundation for power networking.
Tip 8: Regularly give referrals on behalf of people within your network
You can nurture and reinforce your network by supporting them with referrals.
During a networking function, listen with interest and take the initiative to offer referrals and support whenever you perceive a need. If the person that you are referring them to is not at the same function, then pass on the information via email or other mode of communication within 24 hours of the referral.
Support should be something that is beneficial and valuable to both you and to others.
Support should not be a way of ‘looking good.’
Tip 9: Build your network outward not inward
The objective of collaborative networking is to connect with people who would not ordinarily work together.
Do not waste your time deepening connections with people you already know. As a consequence, this also means that you should work on building a diverse network and not necessarily a network built on size.
A diverse and outward network requires knowing people with different skills and viewpoints. Their skills and viewpoints should be different from you and also be different from one another.
Tip 10: Become known as a powerful networker with an established an network
As your network and your networking activities expand, you will become known as a powerful networker. When you are known for something, people will think of you and call on you.
And when they know you have a strong network, they will be drawn to call on you because of the power that you exhibit through your networks.
By being “known,” you will create greater opportunities for yourself and be able to pass on more opportunities to others.
More, leads to more.
- Give up the ‘Lone Ranger’ mentality.
- Find opportunities to increase your visibility.
- Acknowledge and appreciate relationships.
- Manage yourself as a resource.
- Take the initiative.
- Be your own best PR person.
- Ask for what you want.
- Expand your horizons.
- Consistently re-evaluate your network.
- Network as a way of life!
Resources and further reading:
Reading: “Power Networking” by Donna Fisher & Sandy Vilas