Professional Relationships: How To Network With Ease
… In other words, how do you get out of your comfort zone without having to get too far out of your comfort zone so you will still feel authentic and natural?
When I first started networking it didn’t come naturally. I didn’t feel authentic or comfortable at all. Even though, today, I can speak to large audiences and am pretty comfortable in my own skin, I used to be very shy. The 5 tips below are ones I learned over the last 15 or so years. Some of them I read in books, some of them I learned by watching others who were really good at networking, and some were just plain old feeling my way around.
What Motivates You?
My number one tip is to figure out what motivates you to get out there. For me, it was two things: my love of learning and getting involved.
If there was a good speaker at a networking luncheon or something I could learn about my industry, that’s what helped to get me off the couch or away from my desk to go attend the event.
Then I realized that if I got involved in the organization where I was networking, the stakes were increased for my showing up for events. For example, when I volunteered to run the logistics for the monthly meetings of a large human resource management association, which I did for 2 years, I was required to attend every single meeting throughout the year. The upside was that I became very visible without having to work too hard at it, and because of the particular job I volunteered to do, everyone came to me whenever they needed something set up somewhere. Even the president might come to me to ask for something like a bowl for the door prize drawing.
So for me it’s continuous learning and being of service that gets my butt out of the chair to go network. What would be a strong motivator for you? Especially, if you tend to be more introverted like me.
Find The CPI
Here’s another good tip, especially useful for when you’re feeling on the shy side. When meeting new people, ask about them first – let them talk about themselves before you talk about yourself. You won’t feel as self-conscious when it’s your turn. Your goal is to find out something about them that you can mutually discuss.
Scott Ginsberg of Hello My Name is Scott teaches about approachability, and he calls this the CPI (Common Point of Interest). Find the CPI with the other person, and develop the relationship from there. After the initial meeting, you could follow up with an article you think they’d like on the topic you discussed.
In her book, The Secrets of Savvy Networking, Susan RoAne explains that good networkers are visionaries and “do things for people for no apparent reason or immediate return.” I agree. It’s true what they say, “what goes around comes around.”
Networking is a reciprocal process. The nature of networking is that it cannot be one way. Otherwise, it’s not a network – it’s a linear approach. A friend of mine says that relationship building is like having a bank account. How can you take anything out if you don’t put anything in? Of course, this means that you need to figure out what you can give back when you decide that it’s time to ask for something.
Can’t think of what you have of value? Well, if you’re meeting someone for the first time, a simple way to “give back” is to offer to keep your eyes open for resources they need. You could say something like this: “I’ve been networking and meeting all kinds of great people. If there is a resource or someone you would like me to refer, please don’t hesitate to let me know.”
Go With The Flow
One of the things I’ve learned about networking is that nothing can be forced and that it’s all pretty ambiguous. Everything happens on its own time and in its own way. While it’s possible you could go out into your network and get exactly what you expect, it’s highly unlikely that your efforts will bring the exact results you envision.
This is because networking does not follow a straight line. Like everything to do with human relationships, it’s pretty unpredictable. So, the best way to ease into networking is to have an open mind, have an open heart and go with the flow. Go in with the idea that you’re going to make friends and occasionally exchange crucial information that could lead to something useful.
And that last point leads me to this one crucial thing that I’ve learned about how to network with ease. To make networking easier on yourself, you should be committed to having FUN doing it. Put your agenda aside and enjoy the experience of making friends, of being in the moment and of maybe even being in service to someone else.
Experience has taught me, and I’m confident it will teach you, that when you be yourself and have fun, eventually, opportunities and doors will open. And what develops will be even better than you could have imagined.
Angela Loëb helps people rediscover and use their gifts so they can bring who they are to what they do. To learn more, please visit: www.insyncresources.com