Pre-COVID networking at physical events was about desperate career climbers or sales professionals smarming up to smug high-flyers, often agreeing like a bunch of sycophantic pawns to any pointless comment.
It was rare that anybody ever got anything out of it at all.
Self-described introverts like me often gave up on the exercise, especially cause I felt it was just not built for me to succeed in the game. I can't walk into a room like I own it, strike up a conversation with a stranger, and hope to dazzle or charm them with ease. I have none of the 'perfect ingredients' to ace networking, and millions around the world share this feeling.
The reason so many of us detest networking, and detest it to the core of our being is that we’ve been doing it all wrong. Just like blogging or social media, networking is NOT about projecting a false and superficial image of yourself, telling everyone how fantastic you are or sucking up to people. It's about building truly valuable & enduring mutually beneficial professional relationships over time.
Here are 5 tips to become a networking whiz without selling your soul:
#1. Get to the point - how can you help each other?
Every person you're trying to network is asking the same question - what can you do for me? Whether the physical world, or online, get to the point within a minute and half of introducing yourself.
If it's a conversation where you are seeking information or advice, at the end mention how you would be happy to return the favour at any time, and mean it.
#2. Reward those who help you.
People need an incentive to help you - there are no free meals.
If a b-school alum has reviewed your essays for free, an exercise that would have otherwise cost you a couple of thousand dollars with an admissions consultant, get them a $20 Amazon Gift Card. Gift your colleagues books on business & innovation on their birthdays with a thoughtful message - it doesn't cost much.
#3. Express genuine excitement at their achievements
In a social media-fuelled world where we tirelessly obsess over what 'others' are up to in their lives, it's time you got some positivity into this otherwise pointless exercise.
Congratulate people every time they land a new role, or a promotion. LinkedIn even pings you with a notification every time someone in your network updates their professional credentials - this is a boon for noobs.
Pros can always use tools like Contacts+.
#4. Help people grow
Encouraging progress is the biggest form of 'soft power' - it has always been a key element of leadership and networking. At its core, the power to attract—to get others to want what you want, to frame the issues, to set the agenda—has its roots in millions of years of human evolution.
Attractiveness stems from credibility & legitimacy.
So help as many people as possible. Refer them for job roles, try and advise them on career planning, suggest courses that will help them upskill.
#5. Produce content related to your discipline
Content is one of the most influential means to trigger a canvas of conversation. It's a gateway to chatter, connection, and eventually deeper relationships. Like they say, your vibe attracts your tribe.