My personal belief on Networking is that your Net Work = Your Net Worth. That’s right. Who you communicate and connect with during your lifetime can have a direct influence on both your professional and financial future. In fact, a study of MBA’s from Stanford University School of Business found that 10 years after they graduated, grade point averages had no bearing on their success. But their ability to converse and connect with others did.
Another study showed that 40-50% of any jobs available at firms are filled by candidates referred by staff members rather than on-line applications which is just another benefit of networking. Which is why we all can recite the saying, It isn’t what you know, but who you know. And yet, I consistently see people making the same three networking mistakes. Are you?
Mistake #1: They have no goal or game plan.
A vital step of networking is to know your outcomes. Otherwise it’s too easy to just pick at the buffet, grab a cocktail and hang out with people you already know. Make a list of key people you would like to meet and think through or ask others where these types of individuals gather. What information do you want to gain as a result of attending? Are you looking to simply grow you network, find a new position, or market your business? Although you won’t necessarily get immediate results, you need to have clarity, purpose and an intent of what you eventually want to accomplish. Why? When you have a plan, you’re more likely to work that plan, make that contact and be on the road to developing that relationship.
Mistake #2: They show up and sell, rather than serve.
Don’t mix selling with networking. You want to serve others, not sell them. Nothing turns someone off faster than an individual who only seconds after meeting them launches into a mini-presentation. What to do instead? Identify or know your value. Since networking is more about giving than getting until a relationship has been formed, what do you bring to the table? Who do you know that someone within this particular group would want to know? What do you personally know that would be helpful to them? Think this through in advance. Take some time to go through your database or Rolodex so the names are top-of-mind should the opportunity present itself. In other words, finding out what they need and doing your best to give it to them. This is how you become memorable and viewed as a genuine, authentic individual rather than a smarmy taker.
Mistake #3: They have no system to follow-up.
Do you return from an event with a stack of business cards that sit in a pile somewhere on your desk? Too often the enthusiasm of meeting someone quickly fades unless you have a system. My theory is follow-up within 3 days. If not, you probably won’t as it feels more awkward as time passes. Not sure what to say? Always thank a contact for their time and advice, either in a handwritten note or a follow-up email. And then stay in touch – send them a notice of an event that might interest them. Stand out from the crowd by sending an interesting article or forward valuable information and summarize (“Here are the 3 highlights from this article I think you might be interested in…”). Doing so shows your initiative, that you listened to their areas of interest and value their time.
Sure, these suggestions require your time and energy and there’s a reason the word “work” is part of the word network. It’s not net play. Working a room is work, and yet it leads to business bonds that can take you to the most amazing places.
Share your networking stories below.