When it comes to networking, people either love it or hate it. Those who apply themselves naturally to it enjoy social interaction and anticipate splendid outcomes, while those who avoid it allow the fear of meeting strangers to get the better of them.
Approach networking with the same heightened anticipation that you would the dating game if you wish to enjoy the process and make any success of it. You will find that the two activities have several things in common though the road to the promised land is littered with obstacles and hazards that one should best avoid.
Moving up the corporate ladder requires deftness, focus and making strides can be broken down into three things namely strengthening competence, establishing relationships and building your personal image. One-on-one interaction with influential people both within and outside the organisation constitutes two out of the three set activities.
The first thing to do is to ensure that the environment is good for social interaction, and by environment I mean the type of event arranged and the venue and setting where it will be hosted. If you intend to meet potential clients at a night club then you’d better have some wicked dancing skills because trying to analyse the latest economic indicators while Rick Ross is blaring off on low quality speakers, causing distortion to both sound and brainwaves, won’t leave any type of impression.
Chose the networking events that you attend carefully so that you can achieve maximum impact efficiently. Review the information on the agenda, the content and the delegates if available and understand how to glean the tell-tale signs about the quality of interaction expected. In most cases the way the invitation card and promotional material are presented will give you salient clues.
As in the dating game bring your A-Game to the arena because you’ll never get a second chance to make a first impression. Avoid construction site visits before you go to an evening cocktail because dusty shoes don’t tell people how hard you work, they just tell people that you don’t care about your appearance — and thats a negative.
More importantly though you’ve got to define your goals, and the broader the better because networking not only helps you achieve specifics but it also allows you to explore new opportunities that you may not have thought of. Have your calling cards handy as well as any marketing material that you may wish to leave with your contacts. However, don’t walk around holding a box of business cards or with a ream of brochures tucked under your arm because you’ll just look desperate, and you know that a desperate look isn’t attractive in business and less so in dating.
Kissing many frogs before you find your prince isn’t very virtuous and could create an undesirable reputation so when working the room remember the axiom ‘quality above quantity’. Spend enough time with people you meet so that you can discover their intrinsic value, and when you find compatible interests, only then should you exchange contacts.
Sallie Krawcheck sums it up nicely when she says “Networking has been cited as the number one unwritten rule of success in business. Who you know really impacts what you know.”