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Whenever the topic of social networking comes up, we usually think of a roomful of nicely dressed people, sipping cocktails and exchanging business cards and pleasantries all in the hopes of meeting people that will benefit them. They're either looking for opportunities or solutions to their problems. Networking creates long and lasting relationships with others. It's about making a connection with someone who’ll be happy to hear from you if you call them one year later. You'll get together and share what interesting projects you're working on; the good, the bad and maybe even leverage each other's knowledge and contacts for personal gain.
Sociologists call this having social capital; the more people you know that fit in the previous description, the more valuable your network is. And if you're wondering where to find them, well, pretty much anywhere; at a conference, at a Leadership Program, in a queue at a waakye joint, at a friend’s wedding ceremony or even inside public transport. Anywhere people are present, networking can happen.
But be warned not every networking avenue yields positive results. From personal experience, most of them are a waste of time because almost everyone there is looking to vampire time, energy and resources over drinks without giving anything back in return. Your best bet is speciality events where people who have a particular set of skills that might interest you gather. They will be more than happy to talk about things they're passionate about and you'll learn a lot more in.
Another unusual importance of social networking others seldom mention is the confidence boost you acquire from constantly getting out of your comfort zone and meeting new people. This trait will quickly prove invaluable for the rest of your life. You might have heard the quote that says “your network is your net worth. ” This has been proven to be accurate throughout the ages. Those who have a solid circle around them can always rely on it to accelerate their growth. The more people you know, the more opportunities will come your way. Strategic partnerships and recommendations can go a long way these days and you can never have enough of those in your corner.
While all of this seems fantastic, you might be saying to yourself that “I'm an introvert, I'm shy, I can barely muster up the nerve to talk to one person let alone go into a room full of people and network.” Well, that's fine, it just means you're not there yet. Start small; reach out to old connections, maybe an old friend from high school or university or maybe someone that you got along with at a previous job. It could even be that nice neighbour that always says hi when you meet but has never really engaged in a conversation.
Here are some steps you might consider following.
When you're out networking,
1. Make it easy for people to approach you. Don't stand next to a wall staring into space and avoiding people.
2. Have a goal. Go into a conversation with someone with the goal of learning about them and genuinely be interested.
3. Initiate the first step. Ask a person a question about their hobbies, interests, passions, what brings them to the event, what's their biggest takeaway from past events that they've been to. People love to recommend resources and you can create a connection based on similar interests.
4. Balance a converse. Think of it like a tennis match; you talk a little than the other person talks a little and it keeps going back and forth.
5. Give first, receive later. This comes a few minutes into the conversation. Maybe you give that person a tip about something they shared or you offer advice on how to solve a problem they have. Or you can even connect them to someone you know will be of help. Usually, after you do this people have an internal instinct to help you in return.
6. Don't bring negativity into play. Don't bond with others over how much the event sucks or how terrible the speaker was. Instead, always focus on the positive. Optimists outperform pessimists or realists in the long run.
7. Keep your conversations short and meaningful. Don't waste people's time.
8. Enjoy the event or setting. Just think about how you made your current contacts, you'll find that most of them you met in different circumstances and bonded over little things. With enough time this will all lead to a quality friendship. Just don't force it.
As humans, we’re social and sociable creatures, so why not improve that aspect of your life? Your network is your net worth.
Thanks for reading. See you in the next article.
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