by Giselle Rivera-Flores
There is a misconception that networking is about meeting as many people as possible – about placing your business card into the hands of thousands in hopes of connecting with them one day in a way that is beneficial to yourself, your brand and your company. To network is to network effectively. Like any other component in life, how you spend your time networking is more important than the act of networking. Don’t spend your time at every Chamber of Commerce event expecting to meet someone new or someone that can add value to your life.
If you want to network, you must network the right way. This is where the term, “quality over quantity” is key. Now is the time to stop collecting business cards leading to false hope. If you want to gain value, insight, mentorship and ultimately a better circle of business affiliates, you must not waste time handing out business cards to perfect strangers.
Networking the right way is about a few simple steps:
1. Filter everyone
Since you have collected several hundred business cards over the span of your career, use them accordingly. Add these contacts to a weekly newsletter. Keep them engaged with who you are, your projects and your goals. You will soon see people unsubscribe from your newsletters and that’s okay. It is the simplest way to filter out the people that can add value from those that cannot.
2. Determine who and what is most important
Start by creating a list of your top 20 most important contacts. These are the people that influence your life in several ways. Whether they are mentors, business affiliates, customers or friends, create your list of the top 20 most important business contacts and stay connected. Staying engaged with your contacts is the most valuable piece of networking. Keeping them up to date on your projects and progress can lead to other valuable contacts they may have. Also, when you have determined who is part of your top 20, create another list of things you are trying to achieve. Being fully aware of your direction and having a clear vision of your goals will help you navigate the networking world. It will allow you to choose your contacts wisely and make better overall connections.
3. Be mutual
In the same manner that you seek guidance and assistance, many others seek the same. Whether they are top level executives or entry level workers, everyone needs connections that are mutually beneficial. Learning more about your contacts and their projects – not just teaching them about yours – is the perfect way to start a mutually beneficial relationship. Help them on a project or task and show off your value. This will quickly keep them genuinely interested in your skill sets as they can recommend others in their network to reach out to you for future projects. This is a crucial element in networking, especially for freelancers.
Having a mutually beneficial relationship can only work if someone takes the initiative to help. Be the first to give before you ask or receive a perk from your new contact. Sending out random emails to your contacts about your need for help is never good. It is the equivalent of cold calling. Always remember that at the end of the day, your contact is a person. A person with a busy schedule, family, worries and financial burdens, therefore, taking a minute to recognize them as a person is always the best way to start a conversation about needs. Be sure to provide your services to them first to help break the ice and build rapport.
5. Think personality
At times, when others talk about networking they talk about mingling with the higher executives and rubbing shoulders with upper management but that has proven to be ineffective. When looking to make connections, be aware of personalities. Having the business card and contact of a CEO who is against collaboration is not a beneficial contact. Being a CEO or an entry-level worker should not factor into the networking world. Networking is based solely on a person’s personality and their business mind set. Those that want to collaborate will do so and they can open the doors to other like-minded contacts.
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About the Author:
Giselle Rivera-Flores intertwines her love of all things innovative with her passion for writing while channeling her inner New York, as she explores journalism through print and online media outlets. Working as a journalist with an extensive background in business development and entrepreneurship, she has evolved into a connoisseur of words and brand.
Currently working on a book titled, Love Local, Giselle resides in Worcester, MA with her husband and two daughters.