How many of you think networking is overrated?
I used to think so. Not until recently I started realizing that everything I have (my apartment, my car and my real estate) and everyone I know (my boyfriend, my friends, my colleagues) are all results of my past networking. Networking is a fancy word for building relationship. Most people think networking is planned activities that only happen in a defined space for a short period of time (i.e. drinking champagne in your best outfit at cocktail party for 3 hours talking about nothing). My suspicion is that probably someone in the professional world invented this term just to make it sounds more technical so the introverts would just shy away. My fellow readers don’t let this little trick fool you. The true definition of networking is building relationship & rapport with new friends while being yourself anywhere anytime.
Doesn’t this sound easy enough?
I know what you are thinking about right now: ‘It is easy for you to say. You are an extrovert! How about the shy bunch like me? It doesn’t matter where and when, I am just not comfortable talking to strangers!’ Trust me I know how you feel. I am an only child and I was very shy as a kid. If you grew up in a city like Hong Kong with 2 working parents, the chances were you would spend a lot of time alone in your tiny apartment. I had a few friends in school yes, but it’s not that we could go out and play on the street after school. Hong Kong is a big city with almost 7 millions people. Even though the crime rate was (still is) relatively low compared to the US, kids were usually not allowed to leave the house until at least we were 13 or 14. So what did I do home alone before I was 13? Not much! Not until I came to the U.S when I was 16, my situation changed from ‘no one to talk to but I still have my parents’ to ‘no one to talk to but I really have no one!’ In extreme situation as such, I was forced to break out of my cocoon. I trained myself to talk, build relationship and make friends.
Here is my 7 Rules of Networking Made Easy:
1) Ask questions. The truth is everyone loves to talk about themselves. When I say ask questions, I don’t mean what is your name or what do you do for living types of questions. I meant real questions that bring up the past, the feeling, the experience and passion out of your new friends. Vice versa, when someone ask you: ‘How are you?’ Don’t just say I am fine then stop there. Speak with sincerity and put some context to your fineness. For Example: I am doing great because I just closed a BIG deal in San Francisco.
2) Offer help – You can always add values to someone’s life anytime anywhere. Offering help doesn’t mean you have to spend hours of research and work overnight to make things happen. Send your new friends a thank you note with information you think they might be interested such as an intriguing article, shocking news or fun facts that could benefit them.
3) Business Cards. Always bring and offer your business cards. This does show your professionalism and you always seem prepared. If those who work for yourself; design a unique business card that make you stand out. (Check out Scott Ginsberg’s How to Make Your Business Cards UNFORGETTABLE)
4) Write things down. After a good conversation, ask for their business card immediately and jot down how you can help. If the person didn’t bring their business card, ask for their contact anyway and write things down on your notebook.
5) Set goal and practice. Set goal to meet someone new person every week. Networking does take work. The more you practice the more you will get better.
6) Follow Up – If you promise someone that you will send them info. Do it within the next 24 hours.
7) Be yourself at all time. You cannot pretend to be an angel at a cocktail party and become a bitch at Starbucks yelling at the barista. You never know who is behind you waiting in line. To recap, the 7 Rules of Networking Made Easy
Bring Business Cards
Write Things Down
Set Goal and Practice
Be Yourself at All Time
Put your person before your profession; your personality before your position; your individuality before your industry. (Thanks Scott Ginsberg for the quote). All of us are unique. We are all worthwhile individuals that everyone should meet and learn from. There are also great people on the street waiting for you to meet them. Have fun networking and turn the next stranger to your new best friend!
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