Networking is usually either put to the bottom of the priority list, or done incorrectly whereby people think it should result in an immediate business gain. Turning up to a networking event and talking endlessly about yourself and your company’s offering is not only going to have the opposite effect, but it’s also a sure way of labelling yourself as someone who wants to ‘take’ and not ‘give’. So unless you’re the keynote speaker and talking about yourself and what your company does is mandatory, steer clear of this approach! So what is networking, and how do we do it well?
How many LinkedIn connections do you have? Do you have a stack of business cards sitting on your desk, collecting dust? If you contacted five of those people at random, would they know who you are and what you do? A large percentage of people think about networking as a numbers challenge, to have the most followers, the largest contacts list. They try to meet as many people as possible whether a relationship is formed or not.
True networking is about the quality of those relationships, not the quantity of connections. Those relationships are about building a two-way connection with people where both parties bring value. Understanding your own value and what you can bring to the relationship is key to establishing a strong and successful network. How can your skills, strengths and talents benefit others, how can you enhance someone else’s career?
Building an honest and solid network with a range of people will allow you to expand your connections, building relationships will help you find collaborations that open new opportunities and expand mutual interests and skills.
The difficulties of networking
Networking is about putting yourself out there, speaking to people potentially outside your comfort zone. As humans, our tendency is to associate and have relationships with people who are like us. In male dominated industries, especially ones where leaders are predominately male, it can be challenging for women to create those networking opportunities. One of the best ways to tackle this problem is by creating and investing in new activities, outside your everyday role. The best way to grow professional relationships is by doing things together, through an industry association, alumni group or professional network. The crucial thing is to get involved, show your value, share it, and be ready to benefit from the value that others bring to the network.
Benefits of networking effectively
For long term career progression, networking is essential, exposing you to changing trends and ideas, support and opportunities that may have been missed otherwise. Networking is a give and take relationship, the more you share your time, experience and knowledge, the greater the chance someone will return the favour. Networking relationships occur on a variety of levels from leaders who you look up to, co-workers who can help you build stronger working relationships, potential clients or businesses you can collaborate with. Whether you want to get promoted, expand your service offering, join a new company or start a whole new career, networking is a powerful tool in achieving your career goals.
There are many misconceptions about what networking is and what you can get out of it. For instance, that networking is all about selling you and your business. People who spend the whole time talking about how great they are and push for a sale of their skills, a product or service are not focused on building a strong and equal relationship with their network.
Another key misconception is that you’re either good at it or you’re not, but networking is something you can improve at with practice by finding a networking group you feel comfortable in, or generating your own networking activities, start small.
Lastly, many believe that without a networking event to attend where you can hand out multiple business cards and receive business or results then there is no point in getting involved. Networking is a long-term method for success, you can network anywhere, anytime, it’s about building relationships with everyone around you.
For tips and advice on how to network effectively from leaders across a range of industries, our 18-page Networking Multimedia Toolkit is available. Receive a free copy of our Networking Multimedia Toolkit when you register for our 10,000 Women in Tech Virtual Conference where multiple leaders in the tech industry will be discussing successful networking.
For more information and to register visit https://emberin.com/10000womenintech/