You’re not really a natural talent when it comes to socialising. It’s not that you don’t like to meet new people, you just don’t know what to say when put on the spot. You’re more of a ‘thinker’ so by the time someone asks (at a networking event) “Hey, tell me more about your business” your brain decides to produce about ‘99 answers’ at the same time. Your hands start to get sweaty and your brain… well, your brain basically goes on sleep mode. There you go looking like the ‘weirdo’ who doesn’t know what her own business/job is about.
I know exactly how you feel. In my case, my brain decides to switch languages. Before you know I start saying something like “Trabajo en the marketing department para drie jaar”. I know! That’s like Spanish, English and Dutch in one sentence. Help!
So why is it important to be a better networker?
Whether you’re growing your business or looking for a new job, (business) networking is still considered to be one the best ways to do so. Luckily, there are different ways of networking. You can network by connecting with people in your inner circle, through social media, LinkedIn or (the nerve-wracking face to face) networking events.
So am I a networking pro? No, no, no! However, I would like to share some of the few things I have learned which have helped me successfully improve my networking skills.
Know who you are
There’s nothing more important than knowing who you are and why you’re doing what you’re doing. Whether you’re selling yourself (at a job interview) or selling your own product/service, if you don’t believe in it, no one will. Start by asking yourself the following:
- What is my identity?
- What makes me or my product stand out?
- What problem does my idea solve?
Furthermore, knowing who you are, will give you a sense of confidence which is ‘muy importante’ (very important). Ultimately, you know you are offering something of great value and when you believe in what you do that truly shows forth.
Have a killer ‘elevator’ pitch
Now that you have identified who you are, it’s time to get on with your elevator pitch. This is a short overview of who you are and what you have to offer your listener or reader? Remember, you are trying to convince others why they should work with you or consider you. I know you are ‘awesome’, however, your pitch needs to a bit more specific and memorable.
Don’t be scared to make the first move
This one was a real struggle for me. Making the first move seems so much like a scary thing to do. You know, sending out that email, making the phone call, walking across the room just to introduce yourself. However, what is the worst that can happen? Probably, that you don’t get any reply isn’t it?
I have been sending out some emails a couple of weeks ago and guess what still no reply. And that’s fine. The right opportunities and doors will open at the right time. Same thing goes for when you’re networking for job opportunities. If you were not offered the job, there is probably a better one on its way – You will never know if you don’t take the first step.
Be open to building relationships
So, someone you contacted has gotten back to you, however, at the moment there’s no immediate lead. Does this mean this was a lost opportunity? Absolutely not! Don’t get rid of the business card, no don’t delete that email.
Networking is not only about what you can get. It’s a give and take relationship. The best connections and relationships can spring forth by just simply keeping in contact with that person. Besides, who knows later on your contact John, might have a friend, Jolanda, who’s niece, Jennifer is looking to work with someone like you.
Prepare like your life depends on it
As long as ‘the’ Mariah Carey is still having rehearsals and voice training sessions then you, my dear are not exempted from practising and being prepared yourself. I know… a bit off topic, but you get what I mean right?
“Success is where preparation and opportunity meet” – Bobby Unser
Yes, you know who you are and you know what you have to offer. However, in order to avoid unwanted surprises, always make sure you are prepared. Whether it’s a networking event, meeting, phone call etc. Bobby Unser said it best when he said “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet”- Don’t underestimate the power of preparation.