F.I.R.S.T. Institute Blog
5 steps to Seriously Improve Your Networking Skills
One of the fuels known to accelerate success is networking. It’s been known to help boost careers in every industry. When you improve your networking skills, you get the chance to learn directly from the professionals you meet. You’ll also benefit from growing your own authority within your industry, which can be both rewarding and empowering.
Many people have an inner fear of the word networking. Some worry about where they should start, what they should say when connecting with someone or even just how they can maintain relationships. Whatever, your issues, overcoming them is mandatory if you want to get your career in gear. So, here are some tips to help you improve the way you network.
5 Tips to Help You Network Better
When it comes to networking, the goal is not just to meet and greet people, but to create, nurture and build dependable relationships, that last for years to come. Follow these five tips to help you improve your networking skills and enhance your career:
1. Change the Way You Think About Networking
A networking event is not a business card exchange. It’s a chance to meet and build genuine relationships with movers and shakers in your industry. Don’t go into it with the intentions of passing out hundreds of cards, without engaging with people.
Treat everyone you meet as if they’re already your friend, as opposed to a possible business contact. This will make you much more approachable than “selling” yourself, your brand or your solutions. Chat with people. Find out what you have in common with them. Keep conversations light and friendly.
Also, be real. People who network regularly get approached by hundreds of people all the time. So, they have no problem weeding out the phonies who simply “put on face” or just came to sell themselves, as opposed to building relationships.
2. Set Goals for Yourself
Setting goals is one of the best ways to measure success. This is especially true when it comes to networking. It takes discipline and dedication to network successfully. Having purpose and motivation increases your chances of success, as long as you have goals set. Some common reasons for networking include:
- Find a better job
- Promote a company
- Find new employees
- Find new vendors
- Meet new clients
What do you want to achieve through networking? Knowing your ultimate networking goal will help keep you on track. Write out three goals you plan to achieve as you improve your networking skills.
3. Create Your Networking Tree
Much like a family tree, your networking tree acts much like a Networking Action Plan (NAP). It’s a way of connecting your networking goals with your networking strategy. Now, it’s time to put those goals to action.
For each one of the three goals you’ve written down, write down three people who can help jumpstart or boost your goal. This may be people you’ve already met, haven’t met at all, or have second-degree connections with you.
Think of advisors, mentors, vendors, team members, investors, managers, bosses, clients or key people in your industry who believe in your vision, will advocate for you, could propel your career or will connect with you to help you build your network.
4. Build and Foster Real Connections
Whether you’re networking in person, on the phone or online, you want to build connections that are genuine and valuable. Here are some tips to help you do just that:
- Ask thought-provoking questions. You want to ask people the types of questions that will make them think. The quality of your questions will help others get to know a lot about you, as well.
- Ask deeper questions for better answers. Don’t resort to asking questions about the weather. Instead, pose questions that force the person to which you’re talking to think in a new manner which helps her or him grow. For example, “How can you achieve your 5-year goals in under six months?” would really get a person to thinking.
- Pay very close attention. Make sure to pay close attention to the people you talk with when networking. Give them eye contact, listen attentively, don’t fidget and look around, never interrupt and respond to them with relevant questions. This will help you to separate yourself from others so you stand out in the pack. You’ll greatly improve your networking skills, while working your way towards building and fostering real connections and relationships.
5. Become a Super Connector
What is a super connector? It’s a person with a boatload of social media friends and a solid social media following. This person makes high-level connections, regularly, using well-thought-out, methodical, yet simple introductions. When networking, super connectors help others grow their connections by introducing people to each other who can benefit from one another.
It’s not always easy to spot valuable connections in the foggy online world of more than three billion people. Super connectors have that ability, as well as the network connections needed to help others. Here are some tips to improve your networking skills well enough to become a super connector yourself:
- Stop keeping score. These connections have abundance mentalities. So, sharing, connecting and giving referrals, advice, etc… are never issues. This is what separates them from other network members.
- Network to make friends. If you want to build networks that bring value to your life, you need to make friends, as opposed to contacts. This helps ensure the quality of the connections you make. Some networking experts advise never talking about business during your first encounter with a person, unless it’s absolutely necessary. That way, you spend time having quality conversations that will stick in your memory. Quality over quantity means it’s more valuable to foster connection with 10 quality networkers at an event, than 100 contacts you can’t even remember.
- Be a super-connector connector. Another way to make your mark as a super connector is by connecting two other super connectors who could benefit from each other. These people are naturally friendly and many network within the same crowds. So, making these connections is always easy. You will help them excel and enhance their goals. Plus, they’ll remember you when connections you can benefit from come up in the future.
- Interview others. When strategically done, interviewing others is a very fast way to increase the size of your network. Make connections with industry gurus, experts, professionals and up-and-comings. Interview them and publish it as a book, eBook, blog post, research paper, news article, video or podcast. People love visuals. So, podcasts are very popular these days.
- Always do follow-ups. Many people leave this task incomplete. But, you need to follow up in order to maintain connections. To truly foster a relationship, send a little note (or make a call) letting the person know you enjoyed meeting them. Maybe touch on a topic you two discussed during your meeting so they’ll know the connection is genuine. Make sure you don’t have an agenda. Instead of trying to sell something, just simply connect.
Improve Your Networking Skills for a Better Career
Networking is an effective way to meet and build relationships with potential employers, and others who can refer you to hiring companies. Another way to enhance your career is with a quality education.
F.I.R.S.T. Institute offers three different programs to help jump start your career: Recording Arts & Show Production, Digital Filmmaking & Video Production and Graphic Design & Web Development. Get started on your digital arts education today!