MAKING CONNECTIONS THROUGH NETWORKING

Connecting with the Right People

It has been said that it’s not what you know, but who you know. Making connections with the right people at the right time could propel your business to the next level. This is called networking which is meeting new people who share a common interest, industry, or profession and exchanging ideas, information, and connections. Most networking is done in informal settings like events or through associations. You can also connect with individuals you want to meet through emails, social media or other methods.

Networking can be intimidating if you have a shy or introverted personality. However, it is a good idea to occasionally switch to your alter ego and become extroverted so you can connect with other people. Some of the best ideas come from brainstorming with others. Even if you disregard their opinions or suggestions, sometimes just having a discussion can lead to making your original ideas better. Then, you can go back to your solitude and implement those ideas.

Be Intentional

The difference between networking and meeting people any other time is your intention. Networking often happens in an office, happy hour or some other gathering. There are also events that are specifically for networking. The purpose is the same; it’s for like-minded individuals to connect and help each other grow their businesses or advance in their careers. Whether you are networking with co-workers, peers, strangers or old friends, your intention should be to support your own business as well as the business ventures and careers of others.

 

The Importance of Networking

One of the most important advantages of networking is referrals. Through professional connections made from networking, doors are opened that may have otherwise remained closed. The recommendation of a respected peer will help you stand out from your competition. Even endorsements for your products or services can come from networking.

Networking is also important because:

  • It forces you to become more social and meet people which is good for your well-being. Most people only focus on the professional aspect of networking; however, many friendships have started in the workplace or at professional functions.
  • You get the opportunity to exchange ideas with others in your industry. Discussing your work or business with new connections offers a different perspective, enhances motivation, and stimulates your creative thinking process.
  • You meet people on various professional levels. By being introduced to more experienced professionals, you gain access to their wisdom, career advice, and possibly mentorship.
  • It can be a boost for your professional confidence by putting yourself out there and talking about what matters to you.

Selling Yourself

One of the biggest challenges in networking is selling yourself. It is difficult separating who you truly are from who you are as a “product.” There's you –imperfect, conflicted, inadequate, and then there's the "you" you're selling –awesome, cool, professional, super talented. If you don't sell yourself well, try making a list of your best qualities and focus on them instead of your inadequacies. Dress the way the “you” you’re selling would dress. Talk the way “you” should talk. Act the part like you’re in a play. I’m not talking about being phony, but more like making strides towards becoming a better version of yourself.

There's a lot of competition in most industries. That’s why you need to network, communicate, and engage with people as the "you" you want to be. You won't get there by hiding. When you make a good contact, stay in touch. Send emails, follow them on social media, comment on their posts, text, talk on the phone, etc. This is all a part of selling yourself. In other words, have the courage to reach out while they still remember you and keep reminding them occasionally so they won’t forget. Then, if an opportunity comes up, you will be at the forefront of their mind. Like they say, out of sight, out of mind.

Networking nugget #1—If you don't make yourself memorable, you will soon be forgotten.

The Elevator Pitch

A typical ride on an elevator takes about 40 to 60 seconds. Similarly, with a personal elevator pitch, you get about 40 to 60 seconds to elevate yourself. A personal elevator pitch is nothing but a summary of what you want people to know about yourself. It is called an elevator pitch because it should be short enough to deliver even on an elevator.

Networking Nugget #2—Talking about yourself is not bragging if it’s true.

When you are networking and meet someone in your industry, a personal elevator pitch can be the ice-breaker for a potentially deep conversation. After introducing yourself, your elevator pitch can be a lead-in. It is the best way to sell yourself professionally. During the course of a day, you never know when you may cross paths with someone in your industry. A personal elevator pitch helps you introduce yourself at any given opportunity. It is good to always be prepared. Whether you are at a store, party, or networking event, your personal elevator pitch will easily attract people. By already knowing what you will say, you exude confidence which is most attractive. Being straight-to-the-point is also appealing.

An elevator pitch lets you take the lead. Instead of waiting for the other person to initiate the conversation, you can let them know through your pitch what you have to offer. Most of the time, they are relieved because the pressure is taken off of them.

Whenever you approach someone that you want to pitch to, always start by introducing yourself. Smile, tell them your full name, give a warm handshake, and politely say “nice to meet you!” Then, begin your personal elevator pitch. Make this your procedure no matter where you are—at the car shop, a wedding reception, an interview, or wherever.

When writing your personal elevator pitch, start with your educational background and/or credentials, then only relevant career history, including work experience. Also, mention any specialties you have that may seem appropriate.

Networking Nugget #3—If you don't have much work or business experience yet, state your goals and mention your willingness to learn. A good attitude and teachability is invaluable in any industry.

Forming Relationships

Networking is all about forming relationships. You can create meaningful and impactful relationships wherever you go. By practicing your networking skills, you will become more confident as you meet new, interesting people. Choose carefully who you want to follow-up with, but don’t limit yourself by only choosing people with titles.

Networking Nugget #4—Remember who you shared common interests with and enjoyed their conversation. Invite them for coffee or video chat to build on the connection.

Build Your Network

Find new places to meet your kind of people. Attending events and striking up conversations with confidence can help build your network wherever you go. There are networking opportunities everywhere—in a coffee shop, elevator, grocery store, airplane, etc. Be open to connecting with new people whenever and wherever you are.

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