I recently read a fabulous article about networking – 7 habits of highly effective networkers – which reminded me of the value of an effective networking strategy. Most of us know that networking is an essential part of building a business and a career, but many of us feel somewhat icky about it – and for the introverts, the word terrified probably comes to mind. But the reality is that every encounter we have is in its way networking and we can see it as such and maximise on it or we can miss these opportunities.
This may sound a bit ruthless and if you see networking as an opportunity to sell something, get something or shove your business card in someone’s face, it could well be. I suggest however, that networking could be seen as multiple opportunities to really connect with people. To get to know them and to see how you can help each other in your careers, businesses and lives in general.
Recent studies by researcher and author, Ellen Langer, have shown that people respond overwhelmingly favourably to people who are mindful so it stands to reason that engaging with people in a mindful way will improve the quality of our networking interactions and connections. So I would like to build on the aforementioned article and look at how we could apply some of the principles of mindfulness to the process of networking so that we can make meaningful connections and build rich and sustainable networks.
Be clear about who you are and what you want to achieve when you engage with people. People have a much stronger BS meter than we think so be real.
Take the time to get to know people. If you show an interest in who people are they are more likely to remember you and to want to work with you. And also, for all you know the check-out girl in front of you now may be the daughter of the CEO of the company that you would like to work for.
There is a wealth of information about how to listen well and I love this quote from Mark Nepo – to listen is to lean in gently with the willingness to be changed by what you hear. If you can engage with people from this kind of stance, they will feel heard and valued and they will be more open to connecting with you now and in the future.
Or as Don Miguel Ruiz puts it – Be impeccable with your word. Don’t make promises or commitments that you cannot or have no intention of keeping. “I’ll call you” is very easy to say, but people remember that you didn’t and the world is a small place and the person you’re with now may have connections with all sorts of influential people in your network.
Start looking for opportunities to help others. Network so that you can identify ways to advance the business and careers of others. In The Art of Mindful Networking they recommend that you drop the “what’s in it for me?” outlook. By looking for opportunities to help others, you build a reputation that can only have a positive effect on your business and career.
By implementing these few little shifts in the way that you engage with others you can start building networks of meaningful and sustainable connections and quite likely; make some good friends along the way.