Networking and Relationship Building: The Why, and How
Are you someone who takes to his heels the moment he hears about words like ‘relationship building’ or ‘networking’? You are not alone. There are plenty of people, including even top executives, who are very good at their work, but when it comes to networking with someone new from the office or outside, they behave awkwardly. If you have spent all your life enhancing your business skills, it is quite natural that you don’t even know ‘where to start’. Frankly, a lot of people don’t network out of fear of rejection. There are others who don’t do it because they don’t know how to keep a conversation going beyond a typical ‘hello’; as such, they believe they would rather talk to some friend or a familiar face than start connecting with a stranger.
So what do these people do? They spend their time lounging at bars or restaurants, drowning themselves in food and drinks, trying to forget the fact that they don’t have many friends in this world. If you take ‘business’ out of this equation, all these facts remain relevant for building relationships with the opposite sex as well; a lot of guys are so afraid of being rejected by a girl that they are scared to even talk to her. In this article I will tell you about the importance of building business relationships as well as how to go about it.
Part 1: What Networking Really Is and Is Not:
Networking, in business lingo, is essentially building casual or informal relationships with other people whose friendships could be beneficial to you. The benefit may come in the form of a new job, a promotion, a raise in remuneration, or a new business opportunity – such as a joint venture. The benefits can also come in the form of valuable business-related advice, endorsements, referrals, etc. Ideally you should never start connecting with a person with the sole purpose of getting something from him. Relationships are never one-way streets; proper relationships are almost always two-way streets where both parties have to indulge in giving as well as taking; if this does not happen then the relationship does not get a solid foundation to stay intact and loses its luster soon enough. You can build a relationship with a person by getting to know more about him, his job, his business, his unique way of doing things, etc.; be prepared to share the same kind of information about yourself too!
Networking is not about using people for your own advantage: Networking is not about cold calling someone; it is not about making a business offer to someone you don’t even know; it is also not about sending your résumé to strangers sitting in the human resource department in the hope that you would get that cushy job you have been dreaming about. Networking is all about forgetting your selfish interests for a moment and trying to build a relationship with the other person. Sure, you may get some valuable endorsements, referrals, advice from him in the future, but I would suggest that you don’t bet on getting anything from someone you are building a relationship with, as not all people would necessarily reciprocate your feelings. It is also a good idea not to expect anything specific from any person. Just keep one small truth in mind: if you give, one day you will also receive! That is how the universe works and the universe won’t fail you for sure! If you don’t get any direct business-related help from the person you’ve networked with, you may get it from someone whom the person knows well enough.
Successful networkers have specific goals in mind: While you should not expect anything specific from the ones you are networking with, it is equally important to keep your real goals in mind (just don’t let the other person know about those goals until the relationship has got a solid foundation) so that you can pick the right kind of person to network with. If you want a raise, build a relationship with your boss or someone who can help you with that. Connecting with the human resource department staff of a company you want to work for may land you a good job someday. Building a relationship with another fellow businessman may end up offering you a golden business opportunity sometime in the future. The thing is, although you must not expect reciprocation, you should also never network with the wrong person – and the only way to avoid that mistake is by keeping your real aims and goals in mind. Successful networkers are those who know what they want from a relationship and work subtly toward getting the desired results from the other party.
Networking is not about getting instant results: If you want instant solutions and results, then networking won’t work for you. Networking is about building long term relationships and long term relationships don’t get built in a day! Going by my previous example, if you think you can get a cool job by just spending a few hours talking to a few human resource department guys, you are dead wrong! Why would someone, who didn’t even know you yesterday, would give you what you want? Networking is also not about distributing your business cards to other businessmen in the hope of landing a profitable business opportunity; it does not work that way. Inherently we are all selfish, but it is equally true that we also hate utterly selfish people who dare to ask for something even before giving us anything first. Maybe we human beings are inherently hypocrites? I don’t know. You pitch an offer to someone you don’t know and he might even complain about you to Better Business Bureau; this is much less likely to happen however, if you already know this person well and have taken time to build a solid relationship with him. If you want a job, you should start networking NOT when you actually need a job but much before that. Take the time to build connections even when you are just a college student, so that these connections may land you your dream job when you badly need it.
Networking does not need to originate from an ulterior motive: You go to a bar and start talking to a barfly. Before you realize it, you have learned quite a bit about this guy who was a stranger even a few hours ago – and he offers you a free drink! Believe it or not, this IS real networking in action. Did you come into the bar hoping to get a free drink? May be, maybe not. But your interaction with this barfly, even if totally random and impromptu, got you a free drink even though you didn’t ask for the same! Of course you can also try to network with someone deliberately. Say you know someone important in your office who could talk to your boss into giving you a pay raise; well guess what, it is time to get networking with that fellow!
Part 2: The Importance of Networking and Building Business Relationships:
There are many reasons why people think they don’t want to do anything with networking. One reason is that they don’t think they need to; they can easily get what they want through merit and hard work, therefore they don’t need others’ help to get them their desired results. Another reason why people are afraid to network is that they are too shy and timid by nature to be able to strike a conversation with any stranger unless the stranger himself makes an effort to do so on his own. Yet there are others who know how to strike a convo but don’t know how to carry it on beyond five minutes. There are also some people think that networking and building relationships with others does not really help at all. Finally, you have got yet another group of people who feel that such ‘deliberately networking’ with others to reach one’s goal is too selfish because it is akin to using others for one’s own advantage.
Now the main question is, is there any solid proof that cries out loud that networking indeed works? Well, there are plenty of stats to prove that it indeed does! If you think that you can get a good job without networking, you could not be further from the truth. If your main source of information on jobs is those job advertisements you read in your local daily, you are in for a rude shock. Stats point out there are at least fifty percent of available jobs which are never advertised at all; you won’t get to know of these jobs unless you take the time to build relationships with the ‘insiders’ of the company you want to work for, so to speak. These ‘insiders’ are often connected to those who recruit eligible people for jobs, often based on others’ recommendations rather than a job seeker’s résumé or CV. Networking also opens up a vast amount of business and money making opportunities, opportunities you didn’t even know existed!
Networking is more than just getting your business done. You can get plenty of business knowledge just by interacting with others. You can get vast amounts of information about a niche, industry, career opportunities, type of skills needed to fill in a particular position, industry trends, and much more by building relationships with others. I don’t need to tell you how helpful such information could be to someone seeking a new job or a new business opportunity. When you start networking with one person, very often you will able to build relationships with others who are connected with this fellow. Networking starts a chain reaction that once started, cannot be stopped, not even if you want to. Imagine that you started building relationships with this one guy in the hope of landing a 6-figure job and turns out that among the ten others he got you connected with, two are CEO’s of large multinational corporations, seeking candidates just like you! You won’t have gotten this job without networking, could you?
Part 3: The Procedure – How to Network and Build Relationships with Strangers
Understand that good conversation is an art: If you are currently an expert in any job, did you become an expert overnight? Nope, right? You became an expert by honing your skills gradually. Being a good conversationalist is also a skill you need to hone for a long time and just like any other art, being a good conversationalist is an art you need to learn first. If you are a creative person by nature and enjoy innovating new solutions for your business, think of building relationships with others as a form of innovation too. When you start having small talk with a business colleague or associate in a social milieu it may not mean much to you but big relationships have been forged for centuries based on the foundation of such small talk only!
Prepare yourself well in advance: Are you going to a social or business meetup? Or maybe it is just a formal meeting of your company you cannot help but attend to? In any case, it is a good idea to prepare yourself in advance (just like the way you prepared yourself for those college exams or that job interview, remember?). Think of at least three to four topics which could be turned into relevant conversations at the meetup. Remember the keyword here is ‘relevant’. Don’t start talking about your latest favorite movie when you are attending a formal business meeting; it looks so out of place and is a surefire recipe for networking disaster.
By preparing yourself in advance, you will be able to eliminate those silly pauses when you can’t figure out what to talk about. When you are well prepared, you will always find something to talk about and keep the conversation going. Preparing yourself is also important if you or the other people attending the meeting are shy or timid people by nature.
Be the icebreaker: Don’t wait for the other party to introduce himself to you; chances are, unless you are a very important and influential person, it may never happen at all. It is true that uttering that first “hello” to a total stranger feels like getting yourself in front of a hungry lion, but believe me, you need to do the hard work first, before you expect others to reciprocate your feelings . Also don’t just say ‘hello’: it looks so cold and formal and rarely leads to fruitful conversations. Instead, take time to also shake hands and make eye contact with him, as well as ask him about his business venture or job.
Show sincerity: Be sincere about building relationships, whether you meet the stranger in a large empty hall or at a crowded party. Making eye contact and asking about the stranger is one way of doing things, but the most important thing you need to remember is this: try to memorize the stranger’s name well. People don’t appreciate it if someone gets their name wrong or assumes that they can be called by some nickname (unless they are on friendly terms). If in doubt, ask the other person’s name more than once to make sure you’ve got it correct. Keep repeating the name to yourself until you are sure you have got it firmly entrenched in your memory; if required, write down the person’s name in your diary or notebook. Repeat the person’s name to the stranger to ensure that you have got it right (by asking something like “Okay, so, your name is Steven Seagal, right?”). He won’t mind it at all; rather, he would appreciate the genuineness of your sincerity. An even better way to memorize a person’s name is to use his name several times throughout the conversation; not only it helps you remember the name well, it also strengthens your bonding with the stranger so much that he fails to remain a stranger for you, or you for him – for it shows that you truly care about the other person as well as your relationship with him .
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