This summer I had the pleasure of working with young and ambitious individuals from all around the globe (40 countries, 6 continents) and the majority of them were very eager to learn more about networking. Networking is a skill most universities don’t teach, so I decided to write a blog post about networking for our ABC Business Academy community. This 5 steps won’t make you a professional in networking, but I hope it will help you to avoid the same mistakes I did.
- Prepare your 3-minute pitch about YOURSELF!
Once you go out there, you have to know that you are always selling yourself/your name. You might go on and say that you don’t have any interesting to say about yourself just because you are at the beginning of your career. Even if you don’t have a C-level position or your own company you have to go all in and with the mentality that you’re a super awesome person that will conquer the world one day. Take professional sportsmen for example, just because you haven’t played a game in the Champions League it does not mean that you don’t have the potential to thrive and be the best. Everybody has their own timeline, so work hard and your time will come.
Think about areas where you differentiate from others, where you are unique and where you can provide value to the person on the other side. But make sure you don’t oversell yourself because the fact that you can’t deliver something you sold is one of the biggest rookie mistakes you can make.
Being kind, honest and leave a good impression. Like Ana Lukner says ‘’be TRUHOMA’’ (True and Honest Mankind). Ana is a person with one of the most impressive networks I’ve met and a person I learned a lot from about creating relationships.
- Do your research
Being good at networking is not a gift but something anyone can excel at if they dedicate enough time to it. Doing your research before you reach out to someone/meet someone is one of the most important parts of networking. Imagine giving a speech about your recent trip and you don’t know whether you are talking to your grandmother or your friends. You would probably present your trip from two totally different aspects, so knowing who you are about to meet is very important. I will put weight on this statement in the following paragraph.
- Networking is not about meeting people but creating relationships
When it comes to networking this is now your number one rule: quality over quantity. Why? Well think about it, would you go out of your way to help out someone you met once at a networking event, then connected on LinkedIn and didn’t hear from him/her for a year? Now ask yourself how far you would go to help out your friend? There is a very simple reason behind it – relationships. In order to count someone as a person that is a part of your network, you have to establish a healthy relationship with that person.
If you want to have a long-term relationship with a person you have to realize that benefits of that relationship can’t go only one way because that is usually called parasitism and not a relationship. So how can you provide value to the person on the other side? Well, this is the part where your research comes into play. Knowing who you’re talking to makes it easier for you to see where you can provide value and knowing person background makes it easier to find a common interest and build your relationship on top of that.
Let me set an example: some time ago I was at a company dinner in Silicon Valley with my colleagues and a bunch of people we didn’t know anything about. After some time, I and the person that sat next to me ran out of things to talk about and then he said something about hockey. One word led to another and we figured out that we cheer for the same NHL team and we used to play the same defensive position back in the day. Even though we live 10.000 kilometers apart we still discuss results and other events online. The point is, that having contact with someone over a long period of time, even if only online, tips your scale from being strangers to being friends.
- When you make a promise you have to deliver!
Providing value and having a healthy relationship is really important, but you need to have enough self-awareness so that you don’t make promises you can’t fulfill. Ask yourself, how would you feel if you’d book a place on Airbnb and when you’d enter the apartment it would look nothing like it? You’d probably feel disappointed and let down. Your expectations were higher due to the misleading images and when your expectations aren’t met, you feel like you were cheated and it does not matter what is the object.
You have to manage the expectations of the person you are trying to establish a relationship with. It’s not easy and I know it from my own experience. Once you get to know someone, you want to help them in any way possible, so in good faith, you make a lot of suggestions where you can add value. But if they follow up on those suggestions and they see you can’t deliver, you’ll disappoint them because you set their expectations too high.
- Use your resources
A lot of people don’t realize that they are only one single click away from getting in touch with basically any professional in the world. LinkedIn is a tool where nothing is impossible. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not an easy process, because all good things take time.
I count myself very lucky that I was able to learn a lot from LinkedIn Superstar George Khalife. I met the two most amazing and inspiring people solely through LinkedIn – Alan & Julie Smithson. We connected on LinkedIn about one year ago and after some time I reached out to them and asked if they would be interested in presenting their story at our Toronto Business Academy. Not only that they came and inspired every single person in the room, but later we became friends and looking back I’m extremely happy I took George’s advice and sent that invitation.
LinkedIn can really change the path of your career in the way you can imagine. If you want to know how to approach online networking, you have to see this video from George Khalife:
6. Seize the day
You have to realize that these 6 steps will only teach you what networking should be, not what networking really is. In reality, not one situation will be the same and straightforward, so you will have to be persistent, innovative and capable of adapting to different situations. Now I want you to get out there, hustle, make mistakes, learn and then do it all over again. This is the only way to get practical experience and the only way to succeed!