9 Sep 2014

How To Be Social :: Networking

I've noticed a few things since getting back to the UK.

1.  I am quite good at networking.
2.  I really enjoy networking.
3.  A lot of people generally seem to be terrified of networking.
4.  Networking does not come naturally to everybody.


When you read 'How To Be Social', you might think that I'm suggesting you're anti-social - I'm not.  I've learned that networking is all about being social, approachable, smiley, chatty - but with people that you don't know.  Hence, terrified.


I think if I hadn't done so much travelling and lived abroad during the past 3-4 years, there's no way I would have discovered that I'm good at this.  I'm 26 years old, if you'd met me somewhere between 16-21, I probably wouldn't even have looked you in the eye.

I've always been quite gregarious around my friends, but being catapulted out of my comfort zone was what really made me strikingly vivacious around strangers.  I'm aware that sounds extremely egotistical, but I really am good at networking!



Networking is useful.  I don't think it matters what industry you're in, or whether you'll use the network for work or pleasure.  Social media websites have transformed how we network - but I believe meeting people in person is always ten times better than connecting digitally.

I don't think you need to go to big events wearing a name badge to network either.  You can network anywhere.  In the pub, at work, at the supermarket.

There are people you don't know absolutely everywhere.  That is, there are people who can be highly useful contacts absolutely everywhere - and don't forget you can also be useful to them.

I'm not a professional networker (yet), but I feel I know a trick or two to finding, making and keeping a contact.

Here are my tips for people who want to network their socks off but are terrified of doing so:

1.  BE THE KIND OF PERSON YOU WANT TO MEET  
I've always been a bit taken with people who ooze confidence, who love what they do, who are so passionate that you can't help joining in.  I am also a total sucker for down to earth people, who make me laugh and who have nice manners.

I always try to bear these things in mind when networking.

Plus, if you fake confidence long enough, after a while you will really be confident.  The old fake it til you make it trick.

2.   BUSINESS CARDS 
No matter how basic or pretty, just giving out a card with your details on is such a good networking trick.  Plus, if you're shy you don't need to spend too long talking - hand out the card and run away!  (Don't literally run away)

3.  DUTCH COURAGE  
Don't neck a bottle of wine on an empty stomach before meeting a group of potential work contacts - that's definitely a bad idea.  Having a small drink though, is a good idea.  Alcohol is a social lubricant, you'll feel braver.

In the same breath, some of my best networking has been done when I'm out having drinks or even having brunch with friends.  People are at their most relaxed in this kind of social environment, so it's easier to get in the mix and talk to new people.

4.  FIND COMMON GROUND  
Starting a conversation can be easy, but keeping it going quite difficult.

I find the best thing to do is locate your common ground.  Something you are both interested in and can relate to each other over.  For example, if someone travels, I talk about travel.  If they work in digital, I talk about social media or SEO.  If they blog, that one's obvious.  Fitness?  I talk about running. 

If we have nothing in common, I just ask them questions about themselves.  People like to talk.

5.  BE GENUINE  
I'm not networking to try and sell people stuff, or to achieve some hidden, evil plan.

I'm networking because we're stronger when we collaborate and help each other.  I'm networking because I am genuinely interested in and fascinated by people.  I'm networking because it leads me to new experiences.  I'm networking because if I connect two people who can help each other, they'll remember that.

I genuinely believe meeting new people, throughout your life, is important.  Just be genuine!  It might feel a little awkward or strange at first, but that will soon pass.

6.  TWEET, MEET, TWEET, REPEAT 
I love Twitter.  It's brilliant for building and maintaining a strong network.  It's simple really.  Here's an example:

Laundry hair salon opened in Sheffield, I tweeted about getting my hair cut there and used their handle so they saw the tweet.

I went to Laundry and had my mop chopped.  I mentioned I'd already had a bit of a Twitter chat with them.

After the haircut I sent another tweet saying how happy I was with my cut.

Now whenever I go back they remember me

I didn't do this for a discount.  I did it because I think Laundry have a good ethos, I like what they do and how they do it, they do it really well and I want them as part of my network.  That's it.  I haven't 'used' this connection for anything yet, and who knows!  Maybe I will, maybe I won't, but a connection is a connection.

I hope you find these helpful!  Do you have any of your own tried and tested tips for networking?

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