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There has been a lot of attention on the importance of networking lately, so let’s start by discussing what’s it all about. According to the Business Dictionary, networking means creating a group of associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit.
The underlined words in the definition are not there by mistake! Instead, they emphasise some of the core elements of effective networking: keeping your contacts active by constantly interacting with them, as well as understanding that you have to think what you have to offer before actually considering “what’s in it for you” (the mutual benefit part).
And this is not all. Networking is an experiential process that can be used irrespective of whether you’d like to develop your customer base, increase your sales, receive honest advice or simply meet new people. And there are a couple of DOs and DON’Ts that you should consider if you want to become a master of networking and use this process to your advantage.
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Address networking with the law of abundance
The law of abundance is the belief that resources are unlimited and by sharing success with others, a win-win situation is created. This fundamentally contrasts with the scarcity mindset, founded on the idea that, if someone else wins or is successful in a situation, that means you either loose, or it’s a zero-sum game. Individuals having an abundance mindset are better networkers since they share their contacts, their ideas, and their time, while rejecting the notion of a zero-sum game and being able to celebrate the success of others, rather than feeling threatened by it.
The more, the merrier
It’s true that sometimes less is more, but not when it comes to networking. Here everybody you know is a contact and the more contacts you have, the more you learn on a variety of topics and the wiser you get. First thing to do is to be aware of the networks you have at your disposal: fun networks (friends, family, service clubs), work networks (both intra- and extra-organizational, professional organizations, business associations), and play networks (such as social media). Then try to leverage them by getting to know as many people as possible.
Embrace the right attitude
In the end, it’s your attitude that makes the difference, regardless if you are just starting to understand what networking is all about, or you feel that you are pretty comfortable with the concept. Anybody can be an effective networker as long as they have the right mindset and they leave aside the “no can do” attitude and the idea that they are not good at it.
Once you get these things straight, be aware that there are also several mistakes that you are prone to make while networking.
Don’t network only to get something in return
One common misbelief is that networking is only about “what’s in it for you”. Leave this mindset behind, and think first and foremost at what you have to offer and how you can help the person you’re meeting with. By doing so, you’ll turn into a reliable contact and build a sustainable, long-term relationship with the persons you meet. Afterwards, just ask for help whenever needed.
Don’t try to get results overnight
Mainly because you won’t! By doing so, you’ll only end up being disappointed and you’ll get caught in the fallacy of thinking that networking is useless. Remember that networking is not about selling, but about developing rapport with people. This is why it’s important to get to know them first and show a genuine interest in who they are as a person, before you start selling something or talking business.
Give it time! The benefits of networking will only become obvious after months of meeting people and building connections. You have to be patient and understand that you’re not going to build a strong network over night.
What’s next? Set your networking objectives straight, prepare your ice-breaker and just start doing it! It may seem awkward in the beginning, but you’ll get comfortable as time goes by and you’ll end up being a natural. And don’t forget to listen: the less you speak, the more you’ll learn about that person and making them feel they are the most important person in the world will help you out on the long run. Last but not least, don’t forget to always ask the WDYK question (Who do you know) whenever you need to contact someone that might be out of your reach.
Looking to find more valuable information on how to become a great networker? Then you should definitely read Paul Renaud’s “A Networking Book”, a book of action that outlines the basic truths and effective networking rules that you can apply to your personal advantage.
Executive Coach, Paul Renaud has discussed these DOs and DON’Ts as well as some other tips on effective networking in a workshop delivered for the MVP Academy Class of 2015, pre-acceleration program for early stage tech startups that is taking place at TechHub Bucharest. Inventures.eu is media partner of the program and will get back to you with more insights and stories on the evolution of the teams that are now part of the second batch.
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