Simon Phillips and Simon Ellinas in their book The complete guide to professional networking define networking as the development of relationships, in quality and quantity.
Everyone we get in touch with is potentially a member of our network. The advantage of thinking in this way is that we’ll stop trying to get a valuable connection when we meet someone and instead we’ll focus on making a new friend. The secret is to stop focusing on ourselves and our needs and ask ourselves: “How can I help them?”
With this approach in mind, Phillips and Ellinas identify 10 steps to building great relationships.
Develop a clear picture in your mind of your perfect connection. Who is that you would most like to meet to take your career to the next level or even help you get started? What sort of organization do they work in? Who do you know that they may know them?
You can connect with people in many ways. You can send them a friend request on Facebook or LinkedIn as well as in an industry event. The only thing you need to remember is you will never make a connection unless you attempt to communicate with people. Don’t be shy.
Once you have connected, you need a follow up meeting to extend the friendship. When you meet, be sure to take with you anything that may add colour to your conversation, like the latest book you are reading. Let the conversation develop organically and don’t take any sales literature or products unless you are specifically asked to do so.
Listen out for things that nay be beneficial to them in all areas of their life, not just their business or career needs. The purpose is to make a new friend and friends and have an interest in the whole person.
As said, the key is seeing if there is anything you can do to help them. The concept of giving first is firmly embedded into the philosophy of the most successful people because it’s the best way to demonstrate your commitment.
Think about how you relate with the people you trust the most and how they interact with you generally. This is your model for building supportive relationships.
Reliability is a vital feature of building trust. An individual who has a reputation for being reliable is very easy to refer or recommended because the person doing the referring feels confident that their reputation is not at risk.
Recall the last time you genuinely encouraged, praised or congratulated someone, in both work and social settings. With the help of social media, you can provide timely encouragement and feedback from anywhere in the world.
As long as you have proven your value through exhibiting the sort of behaviours discussed above, then it is absolutely okay to ask for help when you need it. However, assuming they will be happy to help, brevity and clarity are critical: make your request specific and actionable.
Saying thank you is not just about good manners, it is also a great opportunity to further develop the relationship with the person who has helped you.
Networking is all about relationships, It’s not about collecting followers, friends or business cards. It’s about connecting with one individual at a time and creating mutual benefit.
Adapted from The Complete Guide to Professional Networking, by Simoin Phillips and Simon Ellinas, KoganPage