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Six Secrets for Networking Success

Six Secrets for Networking Success

Before you can network, you will have to socialize and be open to meeting new people. In fact, you can - and should - seek them out. While some encounters are the product of chance, some have to be planned.

Though networking has temporarily changed during COVID-19 times, we can still network. With the switch to online webinars, meetings, and zoom calls, networking is more convenient than ever; location is no longer a barrier. Consider using this time to make connections online via LinkedIn and virtual events.

Be intentional, plan ahead, and be strategic.

When deciding to attend an event, first make sure it is going to serve a purpose and benefit you in some way. Check who is attending and their background prior to showing up. Prepare your elevator speech and practice beforehand.

My mentor Darren Hardy taught me that when you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. So plan for it so that you feel ready. Say no to good opportunities in favor of purposeful ones.

Remember: Networking doesn’t have to be a set networking event. It can be a meeting, a party, or even a sporting event. It can happen in the park or sitting next to someone on a plane.

Personally, I believe we are meant to cross some people’s paths, and destiny allows this to unfold. For instance, I met one of the most important mentors in my life through a Chamber luncheon. You never know who will help you thrive and succeed in the future, so keep an eye out!

[Related: 5 Ways To Build Courage And Competence For Difficult Conversations]

Practice the skill of listening.

I’m aware that many people don’t like to network. It sounds intimidating, and many introverts find it challenging to sign up for events. However, some introverts make it a priority to temporarily convert into an extroverted-introvert when networking.

Introverts are very skilled listeners, which is key to understanding people and finding connections with future networks, so use your natural skills!

[Related: How I Learned to Love Networking as an Introvert]

Have meaningful conversations.

Having conversations is easy for many, but building connections is difficult. If you can go a little bit deeper by asking open-ended questions and being curious about the other person, you will improve your conversations and build more lasting connections.

Being your true authentic self is all that is needed, and when you embrace this fact, you will ooze confidence regardless of your personality type.

Building connections is important, because you can develop relationships and they will multiply. One connection can lead to another connection, who introduces you to great contacts. This has happened to me every time I’m purposefully networking.

This can produce business clients, friends, partners, mentors, investors; you never know until you step out of your comfort zone. To be a true connector, you should find the common ground between yourself and others.

[Related: How the Word "Networking" Negates the Value of Making Connections]

Be brave and open.

Your internal beliefs about yourself directly influence your external success. Confidence perpetuates success. Vulnerability and authenticity are vital to becoming more confident. When you demonstrate vulnerability in attempts to connect with others, people will notice and be more vulnerable with you in return, even with people you’ve just met.

Being confident is especially important for women. Although women are typically seen as more "social" than men overall, according to the 2018 Women in the Workplace report by LeanIn.org and McKinsey, women actually network less than men.

This is one of the reasons I work with women on building confidence and self-esteem; it will make you a better and more effective leader, more willing to approach and network in situations that beforehand may have seemed intimidating. When you feel you are accepted and worthy of your position, you can achieve more.

Non-verbal communication.

Non-verbal communication, or "body language," is important because it doesn’t just affect how others see you - it also affects how you see yourself.

Something to remember is that 93% of communication is non-verbal. This is one of the reasons why virtual meetings can be uncomfortable for us; our brains are trying to interpret the body language of others, but we often cannot see their non-verbal cues as much as we would in person.

Duke University found that how much someone smiles can subconsciously affect how the brain remembers names and interprets how trustworthy a person is. Luckily, we can still see people's faces in virtual meetings. The first twenty seconds as you meet someone make the biggest impression.

FEAR in a positive way.

If you are fearful, ask yourself what is stopping you from taking action. Over time, fear will diminish as you practice networking. One way I practice being mindful about my own fear is by coaching myself and asking:

What evidence do you have that this 'worst outcome' will happen?

A favorite coaching question of mine from Zig Ziglar is:

Will you 'forget everything and run' or 'face everything and rise?'

[Related: Why Leadership Training is Critical to Helping Women Achieve Their Potential]

You can do it.

So now that you have these tools, what will you do with them? Now is the perfect time to reflect on who you have in your network and what kind of people you want to build connections with.

If you make an effort to network now, you and your company will be better positioned for when the pandemic lifts. Pump the gas, rev your engine, and get ready to speed full force ahead!

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Caroline Johnston is the CEO and Founder of Caroline Sarah Ventures, a coaching and consulting business that applies cognitive behavioral and positive psychology coaching techniques. If you're nervous to make a positive impression when networking, reach out for help.


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