Networking is a critical business skill and can be the key to your achievements. Indeed, some people may go so far as to say that you are only as successful as the network of people you are part of. However, we are human, and we cannot stay detached and unemotional as a digital network does.
Just because you someone 'accepted' your Linkedin invite, doesn't mean you are 'connected.' Our message and our story needs to be genuine and needs to resonate with those we are looking to connect with. Harvard Business School researchers note that networking with the sole purpose of personal advancement leaves both parties feeling cheated.
With this in mind, here are some things you should and shouldn’t do while trying to build a relationship with people.
Networking Best Practices
Do talk about yourself. The person sitting across you needs to know why they should invest their time in you. Speak of all of the relevant work you have done, as well as anything else that you think the other person should know about you. Steer this in such a way that you find common ground - areas of interest or kids of the same age or love for the same sportsperson!
Don’t brag. While some people may brag outright, others cannot resist masking their oneupmanship behind an unimportant remark. “I need to start saying no to public interviews- the last three were painful” sounds like such a subtle statement, yet no one is missing the fact that you’re showing off your public interviews.
Do exhibit knowledge of the person’s work. Today, there is no excuse not to, what with social media and user reviews everywhere. Get to know the person you are meeting, no matter where they are placed in the pecking order. They’re likely to never forget the warmth of your interaction with them. Doing your homework for planned meetings helps reach common interests quickly too.
Don’t comment on externalities. Especially when building cross-cultural relationships, be aware of what is and isn’t acceptable. Women are often on the receiving end of comments about their attire, appearance, etc. One study shows that while women received more positive feedback for their work, a very small percentage of them is readily considered for being part of a team or a project.
Do make an effort to stay in touch. Over time, as the number of people you know increases exponentially, you may find it very hard to stay in touch. However, relationships are not built on rejection, so entertain an occasional coffee, or plan for all of the like-minded people in your network to get together for lunch. This way, everyone has someone to talk to, and you get to keep the relationships alive.
Don’t ask for favours outright. Take time to cultivate the relationship by keeping in touch, sharing information that may be useful to someone, offering assistance in some way. Don’t become one in that pile by asking for a favour outright. Know which of your relationships are strong enough for you to ask for help, and steer clear of those that are still blossoming. Tempting as it may be, people don’t want to be seen as a means to an end.
Networking can lead to intensely beneficial relationships. You may strike a business deal or a job offer or an introduction to other important people. More often than not, the benefits accrue when you are not always looking for them and it's just a wonderful by-product of a strong relationship.