Networking can work well for you, or it can be a complete waste of your time.
It’s a potentially valuable tool for finding mentors, obtaining advice from seasoned professionals, securing career guidance and advice on some business problem you may be experiencing.
The value of a “good” network is measured not by how many connections you have, but by the number of people you “know” who are prepared to extend themselves to help you out.
Ten high quality connections are far more important than five hundred contacts that offer little opportunity for you.
Networking to “press the flesh” and “work the room” is nothing more than an unprofessional “flogging” tactic. Trying to engage as many people as you can with your story with the hope that they will somehow like you and feel compelled to help you in some way generally is not effective at all.
Networking is not a game of applying your charisma; it’s the discipline of “mining” a crowd to maximize the return on your investment of time and energy.
Networking without strategic purpose is a waste of time.
Rather than “touching” as many people as you can, networking with positive payback requires that you develop a meaningful relationship with someone in the few moments you may have with them.
You can’t throw yourself into networking; you need a carefully thought out strategy.
These three steps will pump up your networking effectiveness.
1. The Target
Identify who you want to connect with. The individuals you believe have the potential to help you out. Do your research. Don’t just show up at an event and start rubbing shoulders. You have little time to invest; use it wisely.
And choose the opportunity that attracts the people you want to connect with. Don’t be an “event-monger” who attends every event in hopes they will make a productive connection. This rarely happens. Select those events that attract the individuals you want a relationship with.
2. The Engagement
Building a relationship with your target is your end goal in whatever time you have with them. Avoid pushing yourself at them and trying to impress them with your credentials and knowledge. “Coming on strong” will repel them not attract them.
Magic engagement happens when you connect on a level that THEY are interested in.
3. The Message
What you say has to be about THEM not you (until they ask). Show them that you identify with them and the issues they face. Offer a fresh new perspective. Surprise them. Leave an indelible impression.
Make the moment enjoyable for them, and avoid giving the impression you only want to use them for your own personal gain. They need to feel you actually give a damn. It not about chatting them up and wasting their time.
Targeted relationship building will contribute to your career success; use networking as a tool to help you.
But don’t fall victim to traditional networking tactics.