Effective networking is among the most highly valued attributes and pursuits of career professionals the world over; and for good reason. The only business people who don’t put at least some thought, attention, and energy into networking are those too green to the professional scene to realize its importance—that said, it is never long until they realize their mistake. Across the globe and its manifold industries, both new and established, the most successful leaders are those who continue to grow and nurture their professional networks.
In this two part series, we will be exploring several key tips and tricks from respective colleagues of industry, coming together from widely divergent walks of life and professional careers to share their collective insights into the vital importance of this very subject. We hope you will have as much to gain from their knowledge as we have.
Communication Styles Matter
Our first featured contributor speaks to us from the measured academic position of a PhD in Psychology. Jennifer McCauley brings her considerable education to bear as the STRIDE Program Coordinator for YLI Consulting, LLC.
Before delving into the nitty-gritty of the advice here, we would do well to remember that as with any relationship, none of us can see ahead of time all the ways which it may come to affect us, or indeed how profound the connection may become, ahead of time. Therefore, we must strive to treat every interaction with the expectation and weight it deserves, as a force that carries importance and may well develop into either a great help, or a considerable hindrance. Jennifer goes on to show us that, according to the most recent science, a bare 7 percent of communication is composed of the words we use. 38 percent of what we communicate is in our tone, inflection, and the volume with which we speak, while a whopping 55 percent of how we are received is in (mostly) unconscious body language. And the same equation very much applies to our own reception and evaluation of others.
Therefore, Jennifer reminds us that it is truly how we say something that matters more than what we have to say, and we should all spend some time learning how to be a better active listener, demonstrating that not only do we hear what is being said, but that we are involved in the conversation and that the other person genuinely matters to us. If they don’t, that disinterest will be communicated clearly, verbally or not.
Be authentic and reciprocal
To be authentic: While this is something that many people will pay lip-service to, not many have truly given it the thought it deserves to be properly understood. To be authentic, at its core, demonstrates value—in both oneself and the individual you are engaging with. A great many people pursue engagement with a single goal: what is most beneficial to them and their success. Now, while it is commonly understood that everyone is seeking to prosper, if that is your singular focus it will quickly become apparent to others. Self-interest as a measured principle can be a healthy thing, but if it becomes your end-all-be-all, it is a hallmark of poorly developed person, and not a character trait that is particularly attractive.
Debra Boggs, Co-Founder of D&S—a respected professional coaching firm—suggests the following: “The key to effective networking is to be an authentic connector and opportunity maker for others. When you are at an event, it is sometimes obvious if you are just trying to meet influential people who can help you. But if you take a genuine interest in others and help connect them to other people in your network, the favor is often returned. It is a lot easier to count on your network to help when you have already paid it forward.”
These are words to take to heart:
As touched upon in the section above, it is the building of relationships that matters most—and pays the most to time invested—when building your professional networks.
Caroline Dowd-Higgins, speaker, writer, and Executive Director of Career and Professional Development, who authored “This is Not the Career I Ordered”, presents us the following bullet-list:
- Network before you need it.
- Build relationships not networks
- Steward your tribe.
- Find the Influencers (decision makers, people with clout) when you network.
- Be an Influencer within your network.
- Get comfortable talking about what you do well; claim your accomplishments—MANAGE UP in networking conversations.
- Be seen as a promotable or recruit-able player when networking.
- Pay-it-Forward: Ask “How can I help you?” when networking.
Make it personal
The above points all stand to attest the importance of being genuine and fully present in your networking efforts. The real point, well worth emphasizing again, is funneled into keeping your intentions and work on the front line of network building. Increasing your professional opportunities and earning power is, of course, an underlying motivation, but it will do you more harm than good if you wear it on your jacket.
Marnie Nathanson, Founder/Chief Creative Officer, The Social Status Co., brings us some excellent final notes to close with:
- Don’t make the person you’re speaking with feel as though you are distracted.
- Do follow up with a meaningful and personal email afterwards!
- Do include a ‘we met at’ line on your business card so you can fill it out before handing your card out. This is incredibly helpful after a night of networking and ensures that you don’t become just another card in the pile.
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