Take a waltz with the your favorite search engine using search phrases like “networking tips” or “how to be a better networker” and chances are you’ll find a lot of good tips for how to work a room, be more charming, hand out your business card properly, hold a conversation, and be more memorable. You might even find some great tips for following up and staying in touch.
All good ̶ and kudos to you for taking an interest in learning the latest and best practices in the world of business socialization.
As you do this search, however, I will bet you won’t find the three networking strategies I’m about to describe to you. These are, in my mind, three of the most important ̶ dare I say the most foundational ̶ secrets to effectively making and building the connections that will bring value and satisfaction to you career and life.
Learn and practice these three strategies and you could find yourself building and maintaining a powerful, rewarding network with greater ease and confidence.
1. Know who you are
Socrates said “Know thyself” more than 2,000 years ago. And he is still spot on. Study successful people in just about every industry and you’ll discover they’ve spent time learning about who they are and what makes them unique, interesting, and attractive to others. You should too. And to all you who think you already know yourself: Guess what? You’re never done with this process!
Invest some time and resources learning about your:
- Personality via a multitude of personality profile tests that are available to you online and through certified experts
- Social style (introvert, extrovert, omnivert)
- Strengths, weaknesses, and preferences
- Life /professional purpose or mission
- Beliefs, philosophies, and standards
- Experiences and talents
How this applies to meeting and connecting with people: There is no one-size-fits-all way to create your special tribe. What works best for Bob may not work for Nancy or Bill. Everyone has their own quirks and style.
2. Know what you want
There are several ways to approach this, starting with the highest level and working your way down to the daily specifics on your To Do list.
These levels include creating:
- Your vision. Start here! This is the high-level, big-picture view. Some experts describe this as a “How I want to be” statement. Others describe it as a “How want to be known and remembered” statement. It could also be a description of an end result combined with how you want it to look and feel.
- Your mission. This is a description of your objectives and what you want to accomplish in general terms. Put simply: what are you trying to create, change, or do? Note vision and mission are often used interchangeably or together. You might create a combined Vision / Mission statement that reads something like this: “I am someone who confidently and easily attracts and builds a solid network of smart, interesting, motivated, and generous people; a network that is mutually-rewarding, professionally and personally, to others as well as to me.”
- Your intentions. These are the definitive decisions and commitments you make about what you want to do, what you want to experience, and even how you want to feel. You can simply write out a bulleted list that fills in the answers to the question “I intend to: _________.”
- Your goals. This is your list of specific, detail-oriented, measurable, and deadline-driven To Do’s. They often sound like this: “Meet 3 to 5 new people.” “Schedule 2 coffee meetings each week. “Add 50 people to my network in the next 6 months.”
Often I work with people who have a long list of very ambitious goals in place, yet they have no Vision, Mission, or Intention to uphold them or to determine whether the goals are really appropriate, achievable, viable, or even meaningful to them. How exhausting, ineffective, and disappointing it would be to work on a long list of goals that have no real meaning or value to you!
If all this confuses you (and you’re not alone if it does), simply take a little time to answer questions like these before scheduling or heading into any networking or social situation:
- Why am I doing this?
- What am I trying to accomplish, build or create?
- Will this situation help me get there? If so, how?
- What kinds of people do I want to meet?
- Who am I trying to reach or influence?
- What challenges am I facing?
- What do I need to learn?
- Who might be able help me?
- Where might I find them?
- What resources do I need?
- Where do I need to look?
Still too complex? Then simply ask “WHY?” to evaluate every networking activity you do.
And please don’t forget these all-important networking question – because great networking isn’t ever just about you:
- Who can I help with my experience, expertise, and connections?
- What can I share with others that has value?
3. Show up in alignment
Ever meet someone who says one thing, then looks or acts in a way that just doesn’t match up? I see this a lot. That’s why it’s critical show up to any networking or social gathering with a presence that is in alignment with who you really are (meaning, your best and most professional self) and what you say you want.
Remember: studies prove you have only a few brief seconds to create a first impression. What’s more, people are taking in your appearance, attitude, energy, demeanor, facial expressions, posture, presence, voice intonations, and words continually. And they are making judgments about you, even if only subconsciously. (Yes, it’s unfair, but it’s part of ancient human instincts and mechanisms for survival.)
Simply put, when people don’t “get” you or see some kind of alignment between how you present yourself and what you say you’re doing or seeking, most will do the easiest thing: blow off the entire interaction and forget you.
Even if it seems daunting at first, try your hand at applying these three strategies and see how they help you focus, show up more authentically and professionally, and become more effective and at ease as you meet people, strike up conversations, and connect.
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