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Real Business : Issue 3 2008
SKILL-SET CIRCLE OF FRIENDS MORE THAN MAKING CONNECTIONS, NETWORKING IS ABOUT BUILDING QUALITY RELATIONSHIPS flip an old adage on its head: “It’s not what you know, and it’s not who you know. It’s who knows you, and the relationships you build with these people.” Herein lies the secret to one of the business world’s W and true talents: the ability to effectivelymarket yourself without spending a cent. It might be through social media, school or university connections, or even sporting common interest clubs. Whatever the environment, every gathering of people should be seen as a networking opportunity. Here’s another adage, which, while impossible to quantify, holds a defini- tive truth and underlines the value of networking: “The best jobs are often never advertised.” So how do you get them, and where to start? Networking can be as simple asmaking yourself known, either personally or by reputation, by asmany people as possible who may become useful to you. Yet the often overlooked fact – and a key philosophy in the good networker’s armoury – is that you have to do the groundwork before you need to call in the contact. When that job position opens up, you want them to think about you. It is useful, then, to always be “on”, because relationships are the basis of networking success. So who are they? It is useful to compile a list of those people you know, and those you’d like to know. There will likely be a chance for some cross-pollination – don’t be afraid to ring a “those you know” friend for an introduction to the other list. Without prying, find out what you can about those of influence – who has it, and how accessible they are. In an industry environment, you’ll be surprised how quickly you can build a profile. Avoid cold-calling where you can (unless it comes with a personal referral), but the next step is contact. BY JAMES WESTON 20 hen it comes to networking, let’s Networking can work two ways: home or away. “Home” networking is about you at your desk, using the phone and email to put yourself in circulation. Even if you are not job-hunting, be sure to return calls or emails, assist where you can, or even use social landmarks (birthdays, for example) to drop someone a note. If someone does you a favour, it does not mean you have to return it immediately – but show your gratitude with a simple note or phone call. After all, it’s about your reputation. Being the best networker in the world will mean nothing if a poor reputation precedes you. “Away” networking is about functions and events. The same ground rules largely apply, only this time usually face-to-face. Networking in this environment is about patience and respect. Let’s say you are attending an industry awards night: you will not – cannot, should not – make yourself known to an entire room, or function, in a single night. Rather, those who you meet should come away with a positive impression of someone who is intelligent, polite, friendly and reliable. “It is important to connect with two to three people only and have quality conversations,” says Beverley Brough of Master Networking. When we say respect, it relates to common courtesy; don’t barge into a conversation because someone there is on your “hit list”. Let the opportunity unfold natu- rally, or perhaps generate it through a mutual contact. If your target is on his or her own, step up and politely and confidently introduce yourself. Be prepared to talk – uncomfort- able silence can leave a negative impression. But remember to open your ears. “The best networkers are the best listeners,” Brough says. “You will be amazed what you learn when you allow others to do the talking. Good questions create great answers.” And presentation is about more than manners. Dress and present yourself well. If in doubt, overdress – it’s a better mistake to make than dressing too casually. Now, prepare your “follow-ups”. An email saying “great to catch up and well done on [insert achievement here]” is always appreciated. If an opportunity was discussed that requires follow up – especially from your end – be punctual. If the request is not possible, be direct … promises by night but hollow talk by day is a sure-fire networking disaster. Rather than simply collect business cards, you need a plan to take advantage of your initial contact. Organise another opportunity to interact, for instance, but with a specific purpose. Any contact is useful as long as it’s seen to be beneficial or enjoyable for both parties. And, finally, enjoy yourself. Giving off a confident, positive vibe is among the most powerful message you can give to a room. Any pro- spective employer will do their due diligence on your ability – it might just be your personality that secures for you that dream job. ¦ NET GAINS Access graduate opportunities at www.graduateopportunities.com/career_advice/networking The Riley Guide has some great networking resources: www.rileyguide.com/nettips.html Networking to win focuses on a strategic approach: www.networkingtowin.com.au REAL BUSINESS ISSUE 3, 2008 ISTOCK
Issue 1 2009