Networking is a lot like PR. In order to be successful at it, you need to be the best you can be.
At first, I wasn’t going to go into the advantages/benefits of good networking, because stating the obvious is not something we’re used to doing around here. But once in a while – 2 days before New Year’s Eve, for example – it’s good to take a step back and remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. And I’m not talking here about the usual reasons, because those answers are easy (finding a new job, meeting new clients, etc.), but I’m talking about the kind of motivations that are even more obvious:
- Because we’re social animals and networking feeds this natural need for all good people. If you have doubts about this, ask Tom Hanks why he felt the need to make friends with Wilson in Cast Away.
- Because your friends / network say as much about you as your clothes do. “Tell me who you’re friends with and I’ll tell you who you are” didn’t just come out of thin air.
- Because networking brings out the best in people. Unless you’re Michael Jackson material, you can’t afford to be “bad”. Not these days…
Best ways to do it
Now, getting back to the Top 10 Networking Resolutions for 2012: this collection of Top Tips is put together from our collective experience working in the field. Developing a Network CRM application suitable for small or big companies and business networks (or any kind of networks, for that matter) wasn’t easy, especially in this day in age where Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have more page views than probably all traditional media websites put together. But where the mainstream approach of all social networking tools / platforms relate to the individual, our approach was to find the best way to generate, build and strengthen the network of a group of people and thus expanding exponentially the potential reach of a single individual. This, we feel, is the next step in networking (social or not) and these are the best pieces of advice in order to make the most out of your network.
1. Work around the clock to build your network. You might have noticed that your friends from childhood/school tend to be the ones you can rely on the most. That’s true in most cases, because building strong relationships takes time. It’s always good to have some, but it’s never to late to start building new ones. So never stop working to expand your network, it will certainly pay off in the end.
2. Don’t hold anything back. Give help first. There’s a theory in networking that says giving new people your total confidence from the very beginning is the best way to do it. Even though there’s a good chance you might get burned (which you can diminish in time with experience and common sense), at least you can be sure this is the best possible filter in selecting the people you want to stay close to. After all, you can only be fooled once and if the other end appreciates you giving help first, you can be sure they will be there for you when you need it.
3. Be polite. No need to explain this further.
4. Know your stuff. As long as you strengthen your strengths and you become an expert in your field, you will not only become relevant to your network, but you will be identified with your field of expertise. The main goal is to have your name pop up in people’s heads in any kind of conversation that even remotely relates to your activity.
5. Stay informed. We are all aware that lately who you know is sometimes more important than what you know. That’s why in this case, staying informed means know who knows who. Your network is important, building it and strengthening it is essential for you, but understanding the network of the group you’re part of or the company you work for is like moving to the next level. Staying in touch with a few hundred people directly is one thing, but being able to reach tens of thousands through your colleagues in two steps is a whole different ballpark.
6. Be memorable. Whatever you do, do it with a twist and make yourself noticed. Be it a slight touch of humor, a tad of British self-irony or simply a creative execution, you need to find a way to be remembered.
7. Be honest. It’s the best way to build trust, and trust is essential to good relationships.
8. Take the long term view. Think ahead and think about what your network can do for you only after you consider what you can do for your network. It’s a cliche, we know, but it’s one that works.
10. Go diverse. Try and meet people from different fields. It will expand your reach exponentially and it will teach you to approach problems with a 360 degree view.
Practice these in 2012 and we guarantee you’ll have a Happy Rest of Your Life.