I have found it fascinating to hear different perspectives on networking. Someone told me using Facebook is networking. Some said being an extrovert, friendly, social and a having a great sense of humor makes you a great networker. A sales guy told me it is all about selling and purely about expanding business or getting a job. A particularly engrossing octogenarian, who I met recently, thought I was from another world when I brought up networking, and ended up giving me a solid tutorial on relationships.
All these are somewhat true, but following is the closest comprehensive definition of networking that explains the What (from businessdictionary.com)
Building relationships with a group of acquaintances and associates, and keeping them active through regular communication for mutual benefit. Networking is based on the question “How can I help?” and not “What can I get”. Networking could be personal or professional.
Why, is networking important? I am sure all of us want to be successful at what we do. According to Theodore Roosevelt “The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.” People do business with those they like and trust. Here is why networking helps you to be successful:
· Input: Leverage your trusted network to get input or advice when faced with difficult situations.
· Information: Be informed!! Be it new opportunities or leads or emerging trends.
· Inspiration: Bounce your ideas, get different perspectives and get inspired.
· Influence: Influence stakeholders who make key decisions. Make your ideas come to life
So you may ask “How do I network?”. The prerequisite for networking is having or cultivating a genuine interest in people. The good part is, once you have this wrapped up, other skills can be acquired. Remember, the golden rule of networking is to start with “Giving” not “Receiving”.
Here are best practices to connect and sustain networks:
0. Always think about “Giving” before “Receiving”. Marked 0 as this is the Golden Rule!!
1. If you find establishing new connections hard, try re-energizing old-connections
2. Focus on long-term, not short term
3. Recognize that every relationship Is different
4. “Trust” is key to any successful relationship. Building trust takes time and effort
5. Seek common ground, realize that you cannot network with everyone.
6. Be Authentic/Sincere/Honest/Be Present/Listen
7. Network all the time. As Michael Goldberg points out in his Ted Talk – good networkers practice both Serendipitous (or Unplanned/Ad-hoc) and Strategic (or Planned) Networking
8. Follow thru/Keep in touch
Tom Hanks said, “Truth is; I’ll never know all there is to know about you just as you will never know all there is to know about me. Humans are by nature too complicated to be understood fully. So, we can choose either to approach our fellow human beings with suspicion or to approach them with an open mind, a dash of optimism and a great deal of candor.”
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