Networking has become an important skill in the career and business fields. In its simplest form, networking is talking and connecting with people with the aim of developing relationships that will improve your chances of finding your dream job. If you don’t get put in the frame for a job directly as a result, then at least you are likely to discover prospects which you might explore further.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines networking as the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business. Think of socializing when you think of networking, not just making a bunch of blank calls or sending hundreds of friend requests. It means meeting and talking with people with whom you can develop and share a valid professional connection.
Networking is an essential skill, both to support you when searching for a job and to further your career once you have a foot on the ladder. Where does one network? At conferences, professional groups and gatherings, even on the street, the options are limitless.
At all of them, it is obligatory to network, not sit in the corner wishing no one will see you. Why?
- You put your personal Brand to the Test. Networking is a discovery platform and a great way to give your personal brand more exposure. Always be prepared to unleash your personality so that others will remember you. Be careful that you are not overly deliberate or focused solely on self-promotion. But seize the opportunity, too. Talk about learning about the other person.
- Learning to be accountable to YOU. After introducing yourself to people who share similar interests and goals, you will be responsible for making sure that the dreams you have shared come true. A few years later, when you meet the same people, you will not be delighted if you have not made any progress. Being accountable will help you to sustain the momentum that you have built up.
- Peer Learning. While in a networking environment, you can learn a tremendous amount from others. In this era, information is power and a competitive advantage. Why not spend your time acquiring more of it? Everyone has something they can teach us. Different people have different experiences each day. We should therefore be spending our time learning from others no matter who they are or where they come from. It is also a chance to learn through observing those around you. I call this learning with my eyes.
- Always ready– For you to network effectively, you need to be sufficiently prepared at all times. This helps one cultivate the culture of always being prepared for advancement. How? You research about the people you will meet at the networking event. This keeps you informed. It’s always good to know their background information. You may pick up on similarities, which may lead to a great conversation.
How do you begin?
- Start with people you know: Simple, I know. You have met a lot of people in your past. Interact with these people. Catch up with them. Find out what projects they are working on and how they are doing. Commend them on any recent successes they have had. Be genuine in your interaction as well. If you are not, it is easy to be written off as an opportunist. Engage and listen. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” ― Stephen R. Covey…… While some people may be impressed with how well you speak, most people care about how well you listen. Listening is as important as talking. You have to balance both. If you walked to a customer care counter of a new bank, it would be just as frustrating if the attendant looks at you and gives you an ear as it would be if they won’t give you a chance to explain yourself before they start giving you an offer! I believe this clearly demonstrates how important it is to balance the two.
Be able to communicate what you are looking for and how others may help you. Too often people in conversations ask, “How may I help you?” and no immediate answer comes to mind. Be prepared to pitch any ideas or dreams you may have to the other person. If nothing else, they may be a sounding board and offer valuable criticism.
Be generous about sharing tips on career, leadership, referrals. If there are any challenges that they express that you are able to assist, share as much as possible. This will help build and maintain this relationship. You will be remembered for your assistance, and may get valuable referrals as a result later on.
Networking Challenge #1
Reconnect with 3 people you have met in the past and network with them.
About the Author;
Keziah Khalinditsa is an upcoming engineer and business woman (Managing Director at Lamworld Technologies Pty Ltd-Kenya). Her interests are to work with fellow engineers to eradicate poverty in African countries. She believes through engineering and technology, women can be part of something that will change the lives of their fellow women in Africa. She received her BSc. Degree in Biomechanical and Processing Engineering in 2014 and is currently a pursuing MSc. Agricultural Engineering (Mechanization) at Botswana College of Agriculture, Gaborone, Botswana. Miss Khalinditsa is currently working on an automatic borehole water management system for farms in Botswana with the aim of water conservation. Her motto is “to leave a mark bigger than me on this earth!”