How to build a solid network in 8 simple steps
People generally fear networking because they perceive it as this big deal where they MUST make a good impression
We all know that building a strong network is important for our professional and personal aims but when faced with the challenge of getting started, many of us falter.
Having previously identified the reasons why it’s important to have a strong network, we then have to answer the question, “How?”
To help you expand your network, here are eight simple steps you can follow, starting today.
1) Get clarity on what you want – your ‘why?’
You have to have a clear, specific goal in mind for your networking. What do you want to achieve? Is it to make friends with people of the same age with similar interests? Is it to explore potential career opportunities in the market? Be as specific as possible. The more specific you are, the clearer the sense of direction you will have and the more effective your approach will be.
2) Take a targeted approach
Networking is most efficient when it is targeted. Think about who you want to meet (people or companies) and then ask yourself “Where am I most likely to meet them?” Do your research and find out as much as you can about them. Then think about what conferences, exhibitions, networking events, social or sports events they might attend and get yourself down there.
3) Start with your existing network
There are six degrees of separation. In Dubai it has been said there is only one. Whether it is six or one, this means someone you know might know someone, who might know someone, who might know someone who can connect you to the person or company you want to be connected to.
Tell your network about your goal and give them clear instructions as to how they can help you: “I’d really like to meet this person/company/group. Who do you know that might be able to advise me on how to connect with them?”
Offer your friends a drink/coffee/lunch/dinner/babysitting duties in return for their help and keep asking them for updates. What have you got to lose?
4) Set a clear objective for each event
Before you go to a networking event, the first thing is to set your objective. What outcome do you want from the event? Choose something that is 100% within your control so you know you will achieve it. For example, instead of saying, “the goal is to make at least three friends who share my passion for interior design,” you could say, “the goal is to speak to at least three people and find out as much about them as I can.”
5) Offer to help them first
Everyone attends a networking event for a reason. Find out what they want to achieve by attending and figure out a way you can help them. Nine times out of 10 if you’ve offered to help someone, they will offer to help you back.
6) Go to find out about others
Good networkers are good because they know how to build rapport and trust. They know how to connect with others. As I wrote in my previous post about how to be ultra-likable, good networkers build connections by fully engaging with people and taking a genuine interest in others. They stop worrying about how they are coming across and look to find out more about the other person. Get out of your own head and focus on the other person. Ask them questions. Find out what makes them tick and what common interests you have, using that as a solid foundation for a great connection.
7) Change your perception of networking
Do you have a fear of networking? You’re not alone. People generally fear networking because they perceive it as this big deal where they MUST make a good impression. This puts a huge amount of pressure on them to behave a certain way or to be a certain person. To constantly be aware of what they are saying and how they are coming across. This can be extremely stressful to say the least. What if you were to perceive networking as an opportunity to help people? To connect them to someone you know who might be able to assist them? Or perhaps an opportunity to take a break from ‘life’, meet new people and have fun? If you change how you perceive networking, and give it a different meaning, you will experience it in whole new way.
8) Follow up!
If you exchange numbers or business cards with someone, make sure you follow up with them the next day. Ask them if they would like to meet for coffee or lunch to discuss how you can help each other or simply to socialise – whatever your goal. Don’t wait for the other person to contact you. Take control of your life and be pro-active!