*By Jennifer Morris*
Networking is invaluable in every part of life. In business, if you think networking is not “necessary” or “worth your time”, you are wrong. So wrong. So why are there people out there that either don’t want to do it or find no value in it? Well it’s likely they are doing it all wrong. Before you stop reading, hear me out. Have you ever gone to a networking event with the intention of meeting someone specific?
When you shake someone’s hand, are you already wondering what value they can be to you? This is where people typically go wrong. If you start to think about networking another way, you will be surprised at how valuable a carefully built and maintained network can be to you and to those around you.
Don’t force it.
Look, not everyone is going to like you or you may not like them, and that’s OK. Not everyone is meant to be an actual contact. If you find yourself in a conversation with someone that is strained or not flowing or even awkward, get the heck out of there. Tell them it was nice to meet them and then move along. Don’t waste your time trying to force a connection that in the end will do little or add no value – no matter who they are.
Connect on a personal level.
No one wants to talk work all of the time and typically networking events are social. Chat with people about things outside of work. What makes you, you – and makes you compatible. People do business and want to help people that they like. If all you talk about is work, then what do they know about you? Love wine tours? Mention something about the wine. Have kids? Then chat about them. Travel to interesting places? Talk about the latest cool places you have been. Just make sure that it flows with the conversation and isn’t forced.
Still know your stuff.
On the flip-side, be sure to know what you’re talking about when it does come to work. It’s great if people like you, but if you don’t have the business know-how to back it up, you will get dismissed. If people want to talk to you about work, be sure to be concise and clear about your business brand and messaging. The values of your brand are more important to communicate than selling the service itself.
A well-functioning network will only flourish with attention. You cannot expect your network to work for you if you do not work for it. Meaning that you need to understand what the people in your network do and/or need. Then you can be a connector to people. Also, a small amount of knowledge or time could really solidify a connection – to think of you when they want to refer someone or need help themselves. It works just like anything else, the more work you put into it, the more you end up getting out of it.
Manage the expectations.
Make sure that you are not pumping your own tires when you build your connections. Be clear with what your knowledge level is and what you are capable of. People are putting their name on the line when they connect you to someone in their network, so make sure that you can accomplish what you promise or how brand yourself. One failed attempt at a service and you could send cracks through your entire network. Under-promising and over-delivering is always the best option.
Networking can really take a career to the next level or help entrepreneurs with the support that they need in order to grow and scale. The time you invest in networking will be worth it if you are smart about its development. And ultimately, this is time well invested in yourself.
Jennifer Morris owns and runs a commercial transportation brokerage and consulting firm based in Toronto. Running a company that focuses on sustainable practices and specializes in food and produce consumer goods, has provided her with a wide variety of experience. She has a profound love for mentoring other entrepreneurs and women in her industry, and a passion for writing, travel and photography.
Photos by Unsplash