Allergic to Networking?

How many of you have just had a shiver go up your spine or sent the animated ‘eyes up to heaven’ at the shear thought of that word – NETWORKING? How many of you do it because you feel you ‘have to’ or ‘should’ for your business/job but in actual fact would rather pull your eye lashes out individually while watching paint dry???

What if we were to change that word to ‘Connecting’? Would that make the experience or consideration of the activity any more bearable or achievable?

  • I’m off out to connect!
  • I’ve joined a group which I get to connect with a diverse range of interesting people!
  • I’ve got a fantastic group of empowering and supportive connections!

Networking or Connecting (as we’ll now refer to it), is about being ‘other people centered’.  Yes, you read correctly – it’s about thinking of others needs before thinking of our own!

“Being successful at networking is realising that, to get where you’re going, you need to help others get to where they’re going.” – J. Kelly Hoey, Author

Consider how you can bring value to the other person before extracting it from them because when you give to an individual, you’ll receive back from your network. Of course, any good connection will take time and effort to build, and if it’s important to you and your business, you’ll need to be looking at the long game. Connecting is about becoming an excellent listener; being authentic and genuine, and building the relationship rather than the short term transaction.

Connecting is not about ‘sales pitches’ or ‘verbal vomiting’ of why our business/products are so AMAZING. Nor is it only for the ‘natural’ networkers or great speakers. I recently heard that the best networkers are Introverts! It may take them a little more effort but they are amazing listeners and great at asking questions, thus reflecting away from themselves but gaining so much insight into the person they’re connecting with and getting a good start to building those relationships.

Connecting is also not for the ‘Me, Myself and I’ type of people who only want to know ‘what’s in it for me’! That’s a very short lived cycle of connecting so keep an eye out for them.

If you’ve been put off ‘connecting’ up to now, you may find my Top 10 Networking (Connecting) Tips helpful on how to get the most from the experience:

  1. Arrive with a purpose. Always do your research and set your objectives before attending an event and don’t leave until you’ve achieved them. This also gives you a focus and hopefully will detract some of the nerves.
  2. Give, don’t take! When you willingly give to others without expecting anything in return, it will come back to you through your wider network.
  3. Listen with intent. Too often we’re already planning our next question or preparing our response before the other person has finished speaking. Practice a little mindfulness here in stopping yourself and being present.
  4. Be inquisitive. The best connectors are naturally curious about others. They ask more questions and listen intensively. The results will speak for themselves.
  5. Say Yes more often! No, I’m not suggesting anything untoward here. I’m merely stating that saying yes to attend a ‘networking event’ may lead to unexpected surprises which may be a game changer for you or your business.
  6. Be authentic and genuine. If you say you’ll follow up with someone – do it. If you offer to connect people – do it. Building a solid relationship depends on being trustworthy and reliable.
  7. Think like a farmer! A contact is a seed – a relationship a tree. Relationships need constant tendering and nourishment to ensure a good harvest. (– Kingsley Aikins)
  8. Consciously connect people. Make it your business to introduce people to one another. Think about who might appreciate an introduction to another. Create your value!
  9. Ask for introductions. The cycle of connection comes full circle, so don’t be afraid to leverage other people’s networks by asking to be introduced. It certainly beats the cold call 😉
  10. Nurture your network. Don’t forget your existing connections while out making new ones. This takes time and effort but will be rewarding in the long term.

Armed with these 10 tips, I encourage you to ‘Say Yes’ and get out there and start ‘CONNECTING”. Find an event or group near you and sign up. Perhaps I may even see you at one of my Women In Business Network events in Ireland.

Siobhán Fitzpatrick

WIBN Associate

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