15 Networking Essentials For Entrepreneurs
Everyone in business knows that networking and making connections with people in your industry can help drive success.
No matter how good your resume is, an in-person connection will always win out for getting your foot in the door. People look to their personal relationships first before expanding out.
After all, if you can help someone you know first before giving a job to an anonymous paper resume, wouldn’t you do it too?
The unique opportunities that come from your network are often things you could never seek out on your own. That’s why it’s so important to have a wide and varied network of people.
Here are fifteen networking essentials that you need to know if you are going to successfully make connections in your industry of choice.
1. Be Genuine
The first thing you need to know about networking essentials — before anything else — is that smart people can see straight through a faker.
You have to be completely genuine in your dealings with people. Putting on a false charisma or acting like you care when you really don’t isn’t going to get you anywhere.
People may be nice and cordial to your face, but in their head, they’ve probably already ruled you out as a slimy leech who they want nothing to do with.
If you come across as false, shallow, superficial, or two-faced, people will want to shake you off faster than a bad day at work. Stop talking about yourself and instead, display a genuine interest in the lives of other people.
Don’t fake it if you really have one thing in mind, which is to get all you can from the person and offer nothing in return. Be up front, show who you really are, and people will respect your honesty.
And if you want to avoid being genuine because your genuine self needs some work, you should probably address that before anything else.
2. Ask Questions
Asking good questions is the true art of networking and one of the networking essentials you simply can’t do without.
If you don’t ask questions, how are you going to find out that you share a common love for aerial yoga? How will you know about their previous internship at your uncle’s company way back in the day? How else will you find out that you both recently enjoyed a trip to St. Augustine?
Asking questions in networking situations is key. Knowing the right things to ask can help you get information out of people that you’d never be able to uncover otherwise.
There are few things more important than asking good questions that will get people talking and help you establish a friendly rapport that leads to a continued relationship.
The more you ask, the more you’ll learn, and the greater chance you have that you and the people around you will find things that you share in common.
This is the basis of friendship and strong business relationships. Feeling a personal connection is what really matters, and this is forged through asking questions that lead to engaging places.
3. Listen Before You Speak
Get what you need to say out there — but make sure you take time to sit back and listen, too. No one likes a person who won’t shut up about themselves.
Have you ever had to endure a “conversation” with someone who spends the entire time talking your ear off, just babbling about their thoughts, interests, accomplishments, and other random facts you couldn’t care less about?
Don’t be one of those people. Before you speak, listen.
Before going off and rambling about yourself, make an intentional choice to listen to the other person. People feel much better after a conversation where they feel they have represented themselves well, so allow the other person to go on as long as they feel like.
You may not say much, but the person will leave the conversation feeling like they really enjoyed your company. Next time they catch you in a room or see your name come across their desk, they’ll come back for more.
4. Have A Goal In Mind
Why learn about networking essentials if you’re not even sure why you’re doing it?
Before you get all dressed up for the latest networking or professional event, take some time to ask yourself why you’re doing it. Check your motivations.
Are you only out for personal gain, or are you truly seeking authentic connections with people who have similar interests? Are you hoping to trade value in your career, helping others who will help you in return?
Maybe your goal is to learn from others, find a mentor, or participate in lifting others up because you yourself have experienced success.
It doesn’t necessarily matter what your goals are, but you should be aware of them. Then, you can head to networking meetings knowing what you want to get out of them and spending your time going after it.
5. Don’t Hoard Value
If you have value to share, give it freely. Don’t be mistaken, though: this doesn’t mean you should cheapen your gifts or degrade your sense of self-importance.
It does mean, however, that you should attempt to cultivate a sense of collaboration or community over competition.
This is one of the hidden secrets of networking essentials. Offer to help when you can. Make connections and do favors.
Don’t hoard value. Don’t screw others over. Don’t hold back what could be shared.
Instead, give of your time and talents in a wise way that ensures you are forging relationships with people who trust, respect, and admire you.
If people see that you give as much as you take, you will always be invited back. You will always be welcome and people all around you will take notice and treat you well for it.
Being selfish may work for you in the short run, but it’s not going to give you the sort of long-term fulfillment that’s really at the heart of your ambitious goals.
6. Be Encouraging
Positivity lifts the world up. It’s not one of the usual networking essentials, but it will get you far as a person, both in your career and in the rest of life.
Why engage in complaining, gossip, negativity, or criticism when you could be known as the jolly businessman (or woman) who’s happy about everything?
You may have a sharp eye that can always find room for improvement. But maybe save that skill for another time.
When you’re simply chatting with people and trying to get to know others in a professional way, you should do what you can to respect and encourage others.
Maybe the person you’re conversing with isn’t where they want to be yet. Maybe you’re the one in that position. Instead of beating people (or yourself) down, try focusing on only saying things that reflect an outlook of gratitude and thankfulness.
People will respect you on a deeper level if they see that in addition to your professional know-how, you are also a thankful and optimistic person.
7. Look Them in the Eye
This is one of the most overlooked — yet important — parts of any networking attempt. If you pay attention to no other networking essentials, have this basic skill down pat!
This is one of those non-negotiable networking essentials that is not really an option.
Crossing your arms, looking off, and generally portraying withdrawn body language may feel more comfortable for you, but it is essential that you be brave and look your fellow human in the eye.
Making eye contact shows the other person that you are engaged, alert, interested, and confident. You may not feel all of those things, but it’s important to come across that way.
If you appear to be uninterested, distracted, or thinking that you’re superior to other people at the event, you will automatically be written off as a person that no one wants to connect with further.
This is another vital piece of body language advice and one of those networking essentials that you can count on. Smiling can get you places.
Maybe you have a naturally sunny face, or maybe your resting face tends to make you appear a bit grouchy. In either case, turning on a huge smile makes you appear approachable, friendly, kind, and honest.
Smiling makes people feel comfortable around you and helps them feel happier. You definitely want people to feel happy around you because no matter what you talk about, they’ll leave the conversation with a good vibe.
Making connections where people think of you fondly is one of the most helpful things you can possibly do for your career. It is among the most important of all the networking tips because it can define how a person feels about you and even how far they’ll go to help you.
If you were frowning, rolling your eyes, or annoyed at the event, that’s what they’ll remember — even if you’re the most qualified candidate for the job.
9. Come Prepared With Conversation Starters
Maybe you’re not the best at thinking on your feet, coming across as charming, or carrying on a lively conversation. Those may seem like networking skills you can’t live without, but that doesn’t mean they have to come completely naturally.
Introvert or extrovert, that’s totally okay! Know your strengths and weaknesses and come prepared with some default networking conversation starters if you need to.
A lull in conversation is natural. It’s bound to happen at one point or another. But you don’t have to let the great connection you were just establishing fizzle out and turn into nothing.
Instead, perk everybody back up by introducing a new and exciting topic that everyone will want to comment on.
Keeping the conversation going can help you discover things that would’ve been left unsaid had you just walked away from the conversation because there was nothing left to say.
10. Firm Handshake
Never underestimate the power of practicing your handshake as one of the many networking essentials! It may seem silly and unimportant to you, but your handshake can say a lot about you.
Do you just flop your arm into someone’s outstretched hand and hope for the best? Or do you firmly grasp their extended reach, look them in the eye, and shake with a purpose?
What you tell a person through your handshake can actually make or break their initial impression of you.
Ask a trusted friend to let you practice your handshake on them. Let them be honest with you.
If your handshake feels half-hearted, flimsy, and uninterested, wouldn’t you rather hear it from them than wonder what you’re doing wrong?
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