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"It isn’t what you know, but rather who you know." We have all heard the old adage. At the end of the day, your database, email list, cell phone numbers and relationships are the most valuable assets you have. I’m such a firm believer in networking, connecting, and relationships that I wrote two books about LinkedIn.
Networking may be the most valuable skill set you can develop. It can help you throughout any point in your personal life and career.
But rememember, networking is not handing out business cards at happy hours. It is the genuine connections you can make every day with a wide variety of people that involve a win-win. It is always important and relevant. It is the way you develop relationships in your personal life and in the workplace.
Here are the most important steps I have found for building my networking skills:
1. Get involved.
You can't network sitting in your office chair. It takes getting up and getting out.
Circulate. Engage. Look people in the eyes. Involve yourself in the lives of others and allow them to become involved in yours. Be vulnerable and open and share your life as well as learning about others'.
2. Know who you are.
For others to have an interest in you, they need to have a reasonable understanding of who you are and what you do.
Present yourself well. Be ready to share your vision with the world at any moment. This means you have to get clear on exactly what your vision is.
Effective listening is one of the most important things you can learn in life. Be present and take it in.
4. Discover common ground.
Much of networking success lies in discovering mutual personal and professional attributes. Find out what's relevant and important to the person you are talking to. What is going on in the person's business? What is he or she passionate about?
5. Add value.
Once you know what people are looking for, find a way to add value to their life or business if you can. If you can’t immediately, keep on the lookout for ways to add value to whatever they are about.
It’s extra impressive when you follow up much later with an unexpected value-add.
The basis for a solid networking relationship is knowing, liking and trusting. Remember the things you learn and discover about those in your network. It is this memorization that signifies their importance to you.
Without a good memory (especially remember someone’s name) every meeting becomes a first meeting.
7. Follow up.
People have contact with many individuals every day for a variety of reasons, including you. You set yourself apart by following up. This shows them they are important to you. It is always a good idea to follow up with an email.
You are an effective networker when you contribute to others by giving. Give information, time, energy, contacts and encouragement. Always keep your eyes open for people you can connect.
Everyone in your network brings a unique set of talents, temperaments and convictions to the world. Pick the people who are experts at what they do and refer their business to others.
9. Ask for help.
You cannot help others unless you have helped yourself. To get help, be sure to ask for it, and be appropriate and specific.
I have had some great mentors in my life who taught me a lot about reaching out for help (listen here).
10. Show appreciation.
Say “thank you” for everything. Even thank someone for thanking you (“I so appreciate that you took the time to acknowledge my effort”). Whenever you take the time to thank someone, you create an opportunity to further connect with them.
The more confident you are in your ability to network, the faster you grow relationships. And as we all know, relationships are everything.