"History has shown us that courage can be contagious, and hope can take on a life of its own."
Networking is an important component of professional life. Making a good impression and toeing the line between having actual connections and creating relationships that will benefit both parties is important to advancing your career. If you’re unsure of how to navigate this aspect of business, here are the top four networking dos and don’ts.
1. Set Goals
Before you host or attend any meeting, it’s best to make sure that both parties have clear expectations for what will be discussed in the meeting. Discuss what you both would like to get from the partnership and what that should look like. Make sure that you have a plan in place to work out issues with your arrangements should they arise.
2. Listen Actively and Form Connections
Listening is an important part of any relationship, business or otherwise. People want to feel like they are being heard, so make sure that you have a genuine interest in your potential partner. Ask follow-up questions and express interest in the experiences and perspectives. This is a good way to build trust and rapport.
Additionally, make sure that after the meeting you follow up promptly thanking them for their time and expressing your eagerness to work with them. Maintaining regular contact is vital to fostering a long-term business relationship.
3. Provide Value
Just like you’re hoping to get something from the arrangement, so is your partner. Make sure that you can offer assistance, knowledge, or even further connections where you can. Being a valuable resource will ensure that both of you are reaching your goals.
4. Know A Lot of People
You never know what unexpected opportunities might crop up when you know more than just a handful of people. Seek out connections from various professions, industries, and backgrounds. Knowing a lot of people from various backgrounds offers a new perspective that can be invaluable. So, make sure that you aren’t limiting yourself to only making connections with people who have an obvious connection to your field.
1. Be a Walking Commercial
Yes, networking is about putting yourself out there and growing your brand, but you should make sure that you are focusing on building genuine connections. A big mistake that many people make when networking is thinking of the people they meet as only a means to fulfill a need.
An ideal business relationship will also be a friendship. Make people feel appreciated for more than just what they can come to the table with. Invite your business partners out for lunch and talk about things other than just your business arrangements. This will create the best conditions to foster a long-term relationship.
2. Misrepresent Yourself and Your Skills
It may be tempting to stretch the truth about what your capabilities are to strike that deal, but you should remain honest. Misrepresenting yourself early on can damage your reputation and create undue stress.
Be forthcoming. People appreciate authenticity and are more likely to be willing to find other solutions if you are sincere and transparent. Being trustworthy is one of the most important facets of working with anyone. Make sure you’re keeping up with that.
3. Forget to Follow Through
Failing to provide the other party with the commitments that you make can cause irreparable damage to your brand. If you offer to provide information to someone or any other service, make sure that you do it. These arrangements are made in good faith, don’t make your business partner regret it. Word spreads and this can make other people less likely to want to form a connection with you.
If you can’t hold up your end of the bargain, let your partner know as soon as possible so that alternatives can be made. Communication is always key.
4. Don't Ignore Junior Level Contracts
When it comes to networking, many people will focus on gaining contacts from already established people from more well-known companies. This can be a surefire way to create valuable connections but consider the fact that every professional and business starts somewhere.
Try not to dismiss the value of junior-level professionals or those in different career stages. They can provide valuable insights, introductions, and may rise to influential positions in the future. The golden rule is to treat everyone with respect and form as many contacts as possible.
Networking is a long-term commitment when it comes to your professional growth. By making sure that you conduct yourself in ways that encourage these relationships, you can build connections that benefit you and your contacts.
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