Networking is essential. Not just for people working in sales or who hold a high(er) position. In fact, everyone who works in a company must (get to) know and maintain his/her network efficiently. These are contacts that can be valuable for your career and to realise your goals.
As a self-employed writer, I need to put a lot of effort into networking. I’m not the greatest networker - I’m not keen on ‘selling’ myself at networking events. In fact, I’m not good at it. But I have already discovered for myself that a good network is important to find new jobs and customers. My network has already brought me a lot. Over the years I have learned to become a better networker. And I’m happy to share my tips!
- ‘Networking’ contains the word ‘working’. You must adopt an active attitude and be consciously ‘present’. Open yourself to forging contacts. If you wait in a corner for someone to come to you, you won’t get to know new people.
- Prepare well. If you go to a networking evening, check out who is going to be present and decide who you want to talk to. Being proactive is important. Don’t think: ‘we’ll see’.
- Make sure you can clearly explain what you are doing. You will certainly get that question and, when you do, you can present a well-told story that appeals to others.
- Don’t talk about yourself all the time. Listen carefully to others, ask questions and show interest. Eye contact is extremely important.
- Get out of your comfort zone. Don’t stay among the same circle of people you already know, as this is not the way to make new contacts.
- Make sure you have business cards with you but don’t scatter them around. Give them only to people you think can become valuable contacts.
- It is important to have a goal, but don’t be too goal-oriented. Get to know the others first and make sure they know what you can do for them. If you come at them directly, you’ll be perceived as very ‘pushy’.
- Help others. If you give people tips and help with what they are looking for/asking about, they will also help you. Networking is a give-and-take relationship. If your interlocutor is looking for something and you know someone who can help with this, be sure to refer them to that person. Don’t just think about yourself. The person you introduce will be grateful to you and you will be able to cash in the favour later.
- Follow up on new contacts. If you say you are going to call, do it. Keep your promises. It is a good idea to send an email to thank for the pleasant contact. It can be the beginning of something new! I always add contacts on LinkedIn, a very valuable networking tool.
And now, the most important tip of all: relax! You need to make a good impression, so make sure you don’t come across as tense or edgy during the chat. Ultimately, your interlocutor is ‘just a human being’ - that’s how I always picture it in my mind’s eye. Who knows, he or she may also be awkward at networking, just like you. If you treat someone with respect, you will get the same treatment in return. And then you really don’t need to be afraid to start talking to someone!
Are you a born networker? Or are you sometimes finding it difficult to break the ice? Good luck with the tips! Hopefully, they’ll help you build contacts!
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