It's Not Just About Collecting Business Cards: How To Properly Network

It's Not Just About Collecting Business Cards: How To Properly Network
Image credit: Cydcor Offices | Flickr

I recently met a world traveler, Mark van der Heijden, and he said something I will always remember: “Have a big mouth with a pure heart.” I took that to mean that one should always put themselves out there, with the best intentions to do good things.

No matter what you do for a living, maintaining a network will always come in handy. When you meet someone, you always have the opportunity to learn something new. Networking is about building meaningful relationships with like-minded individuals. It’s about creating a circle of people that bring value and are willing to collaborate with you or your business. It’s not about collecting business cards.

I was still a university student when I started networking. It all started when I met the founders of InternsME. They were looking for marketing volunteers for their startup and I approached them at a very early stage. I kept giving them my best and now nearly three years later, I’m on excellent terms with them. If it weren’t for them, I would have never met the person who helped me launch my magazine. This is the beauty of networking: when you have good intentions, you will find people who want to support you. From there everything changed; I started meeting people and building my own network from scratch.

Tips on talking the talk

Everything goes down to the first impression. Keep in mind that with networking, you have to put yourself out there and get out of your comfort zone. With time you will learn what to say and how to say it. The first meeting could sometimes be awkward. This could make you both tense and uncomfortable. To avoid that, talk like you’ve known the person for years. We are all people, so there’s no need to be afraid.

1) With any person that you happen to meet, when you’re there to network, find common ground and let your discussion flow from there.

2) Be confident. Show that you know what you’re talking about. Discuss your experiences.

3) Be an open book with nothing to hide. The last thing you want is for someone to feel you're being shady.

After you’ve broken the ice

One thing you have to do is give back to keep a good business relationship going. Also, you should always be active, and make sure the relationship doesn’t die over time. (Don’t be too pushy, though.) Catch up every now and then with updates of what’s new with you, and ask some questions about the other person. Provide support when asked for it. Suggest introducing your connections to one another for value add. This will help you become the go-to person when it comes to business, and helps bring in more recommendations towards you.

In the end, we are all networking for one reason: generating new avenues of business development. Don’t let your opportunities pass you by!