Everyone always tells you that networking is key. We all know that it’s not what you, but who you know. This is good to know. The only problem is how do you actually get started? What if you’re starting off without any connections? Are you doomed? Nope. The beauty about building connections I find is that you can start at any given time and anyone can get better at networking.
Let’s look at how you can create connections in life that can benefit both parties in life:
School is likely the easiest place to make connections because you’re forced to communicate with people. From group projects to group study sessions, you’re bound to be surrounded by your fellow students more than you likely see your family. Both in high school and college you’ll make connections that can last a life time. The sweet part is that with Facebook and smart phones it becomes really easy to stay in touch with these friends. My only advice is that you make it a point to touch base with your college friends every few weeks or so once you graduate. You don’t want to lose touch with a friend and then call them four years down the road asking for help. That could be weird.
Your current workplace is a perfect place to start building connections. These are people that you have to interact with on a daily basis. My best networking experiences in the workplace have come from reaching out to managers and being honest with them. Once a manager trusts you, I find that it benefits you in many ways. You can also try to create connections in different departments and with higher level employees to improve your own position in the company.
Gyms are a networking goldmine. Not only can you find solid workout partners, you can also create valuable connections. The reason I find that the gym is great for networking is that everyone is essential equal when in the weight room or on the mats. Some are further along with skill. Everyone is equal in the sense that your outside life doesn’t matter. You can take advantage of this by connecting with people you would not normally have the opportunity to interact with.
If you’re naturally an introvert you can easily use the internet so start meeting people without the fear of approach. You can use Facebook to approach people that intimidate you in person. You can use email to get in touch with old friends. You can use Twitter to reach out to people in your industry that you have no other way of contacting. You can essentially use the internet to attempt to connect with those that you might not be able to with in real life.
You never know how helpful a friend of a friend can be. You’d be surprised who you can meet just by getting in touch with your extended circle of friends.
My favorite book on networking to this day is Never Eat Alone. I’ve recommended the book to all of my good friends. I view it so highly that I think every high school senior should be forced to read it. The only issue is that I don’t have the book in front of me right now is because I’ve passed it along to a friend that’s taking forever to finish it. I’ll do my best to remember the key points on building connections from the book…
Offer to help out.
You should always strive to help out in any way that you can. You might not always have the resources (money) to help out, but you certainly can find the time to offer yourself. By always offering to provide assistance in any way that you can, people will remember this and will hopefully be willing to reciprocate down the line when you need help yourself.
You obviously won’t always be able to directly help someone. This is why the author (Ferrazzi) recommends that you always try your best to connect that person to someone else you know that can help them out. By connecting two or more people together you’ll help out many people at one time and build a solid reputation for yourself over time.
Don’t keep score.
It’s really each to get caught up with the “you still owe me” mentality. I mean you don’t want to be the one that’s always helping out people and nobody ever seems to help you. The problem is that this creates a selfish approach to helping others. It’s advised that you don’t keep score because you never know when someone can come through for you in a large way.
Those are my three favorite points from the book that touch upon building relationships. Let’s move on the other side…
When it comes to networking there are many things that you also want to avoid. Regrettably I’ve made many of these mistakes. I’ve also seen others make these mistakes directed at me without realizing it.
Always thinking about yourself.
We all have that friend or co-worker that’s always talking about their problems. They think that their problems are the most important ones in the world and nothing else matters. Well we all know what happens to them, right? Everyone starts to avoid them. I find life to be much more meaningful when you actually take interest in others and focus on your friends instead of yourself.
Always asking, never giving.
You don’t want to be seen as a user nor do you want others to get fed up with always having to do something for you. By always asking for help you may frustrate those that you’re trying to build relationships with. This will only make things worse for you. This is why it’s recommended to take a genuine interest in everyone around you, instead of selfishly asking for others to care about your problems.
In the last few years I’ve learned a lot about creating connections and networking. Of course, I still have a really LONG way to go. I was hoping that you guys could share your best networking tips with us. Thanks!
(photo credit: greenbelt)
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