Your network is your net worth. You might have heard this before, but when it’s time for networking, most of us still get it fundamentally wrong.
How often do the following apply to you?
(a)You go to an industry event with some office friends and spend the whole evening talking to them instead of meeting new people.
(b)You avoid going to such events because it just feels like schmoozing.
(c)You hit the circuit only when you are looking for a new job.
(d)At industry events, you take people’s business cards but never bother to connect with them later. In fact, you have a drawer full of cards from 2002 which are collecting dust.
(e) You think Linkedin is for jobhunting, Twitter is for your breakfast photos, and Facebook is enough for social networking.
If you’re guilty of any – or all – of the above, you could be sabotaging your career prospects. In today’s workplace, a person with the best networks spots opportunities earlier and can learn from a wider group of people, thus adding more value to their role and company. By the way, adding value is a prerequisite for that promotion as well as for being seen as a serious player at work. Here’s what I recommend:
1. START NETWORKING BEFORE YOU NEED ANYTHING
You can’t dig a well only when you are thirsty. In the same way, invest in building connections long before you need them. During this period, network selflessly, without any motives – nobody likes to feel used. Create a plan where you decide who you want to interact with and how you will do it. Find out what the good industry association events are and show up regularly, not just at the annual year-end party. Like gardens, networks have to be tended on a consistent and regular basis.
2. NETWORK IN FRONT OF YOUR LAPTOP
Not having a robust social-media presence can be a disadvantage in an era where people often Google others. This is why I advise women to write or blog on platforms like Linkedin, or to at least post good articles, and comment on and share industry-relevant news and knowledge regularly. While Twitter might seem intimidating, remember that it’s a 24/7 global networking party that lets you connect with infl uencers in your fi eld in an informal and easy manner.
3. FOCUS ON QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY
Networking events aren’t about how many cards you get, but the connections you make. I consider even one good connection to be worth my time. The mistake most women make is to assume that just because you have exchanged a card, the other person should open doors for you. The rule of thumb is to give, give, give, and then ask. Find out what the person is working on and how you can help – such as by linking them to someone who could enable their work.
4. GET USED TO TALKING TO STRANGERS
Creating a larger network does require you to step out of your comfort zone. Look for people standing alone at an event, or in groups of two or three, who seem open to conversation. Start with simple topics such as the food being served or the speaker for the evening. Remember, they may be as nervous as you, and might be happy you made the fi rst move. Share about yourself and don’t just ask questions lest it makes them feel like they’re at an interview.