According to Dr. Ivan Misner, a business networking expert, every individual should spend about 8-10 hours weekly networking and building professional relationships.
From his research of over 12,000 professionals, he has concluded that people who say that networking played a role in their success spent an average of 6 1/2 hours a week networking. These networking sessions then lead to an estimated 50% conversion rate where contacts turn into clients.
Networking can help your career development and allow you to get more opportunities. Entrepreneurial and career success can depend a lot on your network. Today at MentorCruise, we will be sharing some networking types, best practices and networking tips for you to master the art of making friends!
Networking In A Post Covid Environment
If you have not participated in a virtual event, now’s your chance! Virtual events have increased by more than 1,000% since Covid-19 on 6Connex alone, notwithstanding other platforms such as Adobe Connect, Hopin, The Virtual Show, etc.
People are now flocking to online forums and groups such as Indie Hackers, Reddit and Facebook Groups to widen their professional circles and work with people around the world.
There is no telling when physical roadshows and events will resume, so this is the best time to hone your virtual networking skills. Alternative to networking, seeking mentors on platforms such as MentorCruise is another good way to meet experienced founders and operators in similar industries.
Granovetter’s Strength of Weak Ties
In networking, expanding your social circle by fostering relationships with your casual acquaintances is key to discovering great opportunities.
In Granovetter’s analysis of social networks, he pointed out that weak ties, people outside your main social circles, could potentially bring about more networking opportunities.
You should not neglect your weaker ties in your networking efforts for a few main reasons:
- Casual networking can help to boost our happiness, knowledge and sense of belonging.
- Good channel for learning new information, ideas and stimulating creativity.
- Potential for invaluable job and entrepreneurial opportunities - 84% of workers surveyed under Granovetter’s study have shown that 84% of them got their job through ‘weak-ties’ rather than a close contact.
- Weak ties serve as bridges to other networks.
3 Main Types of Networking
- Operational networking - Consists of people whom you need to accomplish assigned and routine tasks. The purpose of this network is to help you get your work done efficiently. These people could include your suppliers, superiors, customers, etc.
- Personal networking - Consists of people outside your company who can help you with professional growth or your hobbies. The purpose of this network is to exchange referrals and information, develop skills through mentoring and coaching, etc. These people can be found by participating in interest groups, professional associations, and MentorCruise, etc.
- Strategic networking - Consists of all people outside of your control such as other functional and business unit managers. The purpose of this network is to identify future priorities and challenges within your organization and obtain support.
Networking strategies and tactics to consider
- Keep your online presence up to date
Effective networkers understand how social media is important nowadays. Your digital footprint is going to be the first thing people look up on social media. Your professional social media pages should show more than just your current employer.
- What other work or volunteer experiences do you have?
- What are your side projects?
What are some of your hobbies and skills?
Follow up with all your connections on social media and email.
Have an email list or a contacts list on social media to follow up to. Creating a meaningful and long lasting connection will only happen if you proactively follow up with the other party after your first contact. They might have forgotten the brief encounter with you, so use this follow up opportunity to remind them.
Always try to end your follow up message with something actionable.
Here are some cold email or social media scripts you can use:
- Would you mind if I contact you again in the coming weeks?
- Let’s keep in touch. Would you mind having a coffee chat soon?
- I would love to have a chat with you on [topic] over a meal in the next few weeks if you’re free! Let me know your availability if you don’t mind.
This encourages a reply, but go with the flow and don’t spam or force a reply.
- Keep your stories short and personal.
Place emphasis on “you”. This helps the listener relate to your story and create a real connection with whoever you’re interacting with. Practice effective communication and work on keeping your stories short like your elevator pitch. No one wants to listen to a grandmother’s tale during a networking session without the chance to reply. Use insights and anecdotes to make your story more personal and engaging.
- Keep conversations casual, genuine and enthusiastic.
Give others a glimpse into who you are. Genuine connections based on your interests and inspirations could lead to new friendships and opportunities. It is common to prepare speeches or pitches for networking sessions but these scripted conversations will not interest many.
Pick a topic you are passionate about and talk about it. If the other party is unenthusiastic or not interested, there’s no harm in walking away. Fostering meaningful and authentic relationships that last longer are more beneficial in the long run.
- Join networking and mentoring communities to expand your presence.
Rake in the practice hours by joining professional communities and mentoring networks to expand your presence. These places are great for mingling with other professionals in the same industry.
As the other individuals who attend similar professional communities as you do are likely to have the same expertise, these are also great places to obtain further career or business advice, support, and exchange knowledge.
Best Practices For Networking Sessions
- Seek to offer value and not promote. (No hard selling)
Before you request for help or a favor in return, assess what you have to offer first. Being perceived as someone who offers value and is a useful connection to have will lead to a higher success rate.
Find out more about the other party’s needs and get to know them as a friend first before bringing your agenda in. Hard selling yourself is uncomfortable so don’t do it. No one likes it.
- Demonstrate adequate interpersonal, social and public speaking skills.
Your interpersonal skills are the “people skills” that impact the way you carry yourself in front of others. These include attitude, communication, listening, etc. Your social skills do not only include how you communicate, but also your image conveyed (friendly, honest, kind, etc.). Public speaking skills demonstrate how comfortable you are speaking to crowds, one-on-one, etc.
These skills help to better articulate yourself, create trust and understanding. These create a strong foundation for fostering new relationships in networking sessions. Practice them more often and they will come naturally.
- Ask open-ended questions to keep the conversation going.
It is a good practice to keep some relevant points of discussion in mind before going for each networking session. These points do not have to be solely work-related, and should also include hobbies or the topic of the networking event itself. This helps to keep the conversation going and bait others into future meetups and further discussions.
- Empathize and actively listen.
Empathy is a great skill to equip in networking sessions. Understanding what the person is feeling and relating to their experiences will put you in a more positive light. Practice listening more than you speak. You need to obtain a clear picture of the other party’s needs before formulating a plan that will excite them about your business or sharing.
This also includes asking the right questions to probe further, maintaining eye contact, nodding to show your understanding, and practicing other forms of nonverbal communication.
- Research extensively on the background of the influential figures you want to connect with.
You need to keep in mind that position doesn’t always equate to influence. It may be difficult to reach higher level managers and C-suite personnel when the opportunity you are eyeing is not part of their jurisdiction. Alternatively, they may trust their colleague’s opinions in the selection or shortlisting process. If you want to reach someone that is a 3rd party connection, you can:
- Ask someone you already know to cold introduce you.
- Perform initiatives that will bring you into their radar.
- Foster a connection with someone close to them (e.g. a colleague), so that they can introduce you
Mentorship as a viable alternative
There are many reasons why people network. It may be to obtain new work connections, open new doors, exchange insights (which mentorship can also provide), stimulate new ideas, etc.
Apart from networking, mentorship and coaching is another good way to discover insights. MentorCruise is one such platform for you to source for industry mentors and coaches.
Your mentor can provide you with a different perspective and insights. With your mentor’s support, you’ll be able to create actionable plans to improve existing processes where you may not have previously focused on. The right type of mentor can help to alleviate your growth pains and get you to where you want to be.