How To Connect With People
Networking is an essential part of maintaining or growing a business. As an individual, it is important that you develop a network of relationships and connect with people; they provide a vital source of opportunities, advice and collaboration. Creating effective networks is actually very fulfilling.
Nonetheless, many people find networking difficult, or awkward. A ComRes poll for the British library suggests that 51% of people feel uncomfortable networking; it’s not something they enjoy, or feel comes naturally. This is strange, since most people enjoy socializing, building relationships and connect with people, and that’s really all there is to it. Here are 4 ways to network effectively:
1. Look For People, Not Positions
Networking isn’t about social climbing, or simply elevating your position, so the relationships you aim to build shouldn’t only be vertical. There’s no need to exclusively target people that are more successful than you, some of the most important relationships you make will be horizontal; mutual partnerships with people on your level.
Author and Consultant Andrew Sobel argues that we all know people who are smart, ambitious, motivated and interesting. Even if they aren’t currently at the top of their field, these are the people to gravitate towards. These people will become influencers, and if you build these relationships from the ground up, the bonds will inevitably become more meaningful.
It’s best to start building a relationship early in someone’s career. As Sobel observes, “It’s not that easy to break into the inner circle of 50 or 60-year-old executives. It’s a lot easier to build up that equity early. So think about who in your network seems to be going places and is really interesting and make a strong connection. Even if they don’t become an influencer, it’ll be an interesting relationship.”
2. Be Helpful
If you want to connect with someone, see how you can help them first. People are more likely to see you favourably if you are proactive in being helpful and engaging. It’s a great way to establish friendship and find common ground.
It’s sometimes easy to fall into thinking that successful people won’t need anything from you, but you’d be surprised. People have all kinds of needs. And remember, it need not be a professional favour. You could offer to help with a more personal aspect of their life.
For example, perhaps a contact of yours is going travelling in a region you know well. You could give them suggestions of places to visit, or introduce them to someone else you know who lives out there. Or perhaps they need some non-professional advice in an area you have experience in. For example, they’re buying their first home, or their children are applying to schools. Helping others is a key means of developing fruitful relationships.
3. Position Yourself at the Centre
Be the introducer. Make connections and look for opportunities to introduce likeminded people to each other. This will really help both parties, and they’ll both feel connected to you through gratitude. This will position you as a central figure, someone who sees links between people and creates new possibilities.
Entrepreneur Shazia Awan says, “People will always remember who pointed them in the right direction, who put them in touch with someone useful, and if and when the time arises they will happily do the same for you.”
If you have a hand in creating new relationships and projects, you will find yourself at the centre of your own networks. You need not be the most successful person in the room, but if you’re the most connected, then you have a lot of influence.
4. Connect with People on a Regular Basis – Stay In Touch
Make sure you keep relationships warm. Stay in regular communication with old contacts and friends; make sure you know what’s going on in their lives. If you need to ask them for something, you shouldn’t be contacting them out of the blue. It should be a natural extension of your long term interaction.
Networks are fires that you need to stoke. So, if you find a spark, make sure you let it ignite. When you first meet someone, follow up quickly. Consolidate the contact. If you hit it off at a party or an event, get in touch within a few days. Be friendly, proactive and enthusiastic. Get in touch while they still remember you. Make sure you sow the seeds early, even if you don’t need anything from each other yet. That way, if and when you do require something, you’ll already have a relationship to build from.
Networking can be fun, engaging and rewarding. A strong network can nourish you, help you grow and create new opportunities. If you want to get ahead, ensure that you maintain important relationships, and always be on the look out for new ones.