Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Three Keys to Networking: Simple, Proven Methods for Beginners and Experts

Networking is an essential element of any influencing strategy and mastering the use of networks is a skill you will need to develop social and political intelligence. But while most people understand the need, not quite so many realize that the essentials of good networking are actually very simple. You can, in fact, sum them up in just three keys: Know People, Build Trust, Share Needs.

KNOW PEOPLE: Without people you don't have a network so you need to meet more people, either face-to-face or virtually. Just meeting someone isn't enough. You also need to get their contact information -- never go anywhere without your business cards -- and also find out something about what they do. Don't forget to make sure you also give your contact info and say what you do. Look for opportunities to meet people: attend conferences, go to networking events or join professional associations. Consider also volunteering for some kind of service, which gets you more visibility. Online you can meet people through networking sites like LinkedIn (the groups are especially useful) , in discussion forums, through Quora and even Twitter.

BUILD TRUST. people are not going to help you much until they trust you so you need to work on building trust. This is much easier than it sounds. First of all get used to delivering on your promises; if you said you would do something then you need to do it. But much more important is to help people. If someone in your network asks a question and you know the answer make sure you give it. Better still, give help proactively. Don't forget that connecting two people with a mutual interest is also help, and don't underestimate the value of accepting help in relationship building. This approach works both in the real and virtual worlds. I have built strong relationships entirely through LinkedIn.

SHARE NEEDS. Finally, you need to learn how to share with others what you want and what you would like to have from your network. People in your network are happy to help you but if they don't know what you want they cannot do this. Make sure that you share with your network what will help you: if you are looking for a new job, or customers in a certain field then tell people. Then when they hear about some opportunity they will help you. In practical terms this means putting some information about your work and plans in your online profiles and adding a few words about needs to your standard "elevator speech", the short, prepared answer to the question "So, what do you do?". If you don't have an elevator speech yet then you had better prepare one.

Applying these three simple rules is both easy and effective. Really this is all it takes to become an effective networker: you don't need to play golf, you dont need to belong to secret societies and you don't need to be a master of small talk.