Do you want to know how to network with people ?
If yes, then we invite you to keep on reading to learn how.
Networking with people is a very common practice in every industry.
The sole motivation behind this is the majority of advantages that networking comes with.
If you own a business and looking to enlarge your customer base and expand, networking can be very helpful to you.
Additionally, if you are on your professional journey, and chasing after that “dream job”, networking with people can also push you towards it.
Aside from the benefits, it provides professionally and business-wise, networking with people when done well can expand your understanding and broaden your horizon.
If you have the right people in your network, there is no limit to the wealth of knowledge and experience you can gain.
It is just as it’s often said that “two heads are better than one”.
Regardless of who you are or what you know, expanding your network is only going to make you better.
However, it is not always easy to network with people.
There are several factors that might make it challenging to build the right network.
For some, their personality trait may make it hard for them to start discussions with strangers, which would affect networking.
Because of this, such ones might let many opportunities to build networks with people pass them by.
Additionally, there is also the time factor.
A lot of us are so busy with work, either as a hired employee or business owner, that we hardly have time to network outside our organization.
Maybe you find yourself struggling at networking because of this also.
What to Expect in this Article
Whatever the challenge and difficulty, networking with people is very important and quite doable.
As we proceed, you will see what it really means to network with people, what kind of people to have in your network, where to find these ones, and how to easily build your network.
Let us begin now with the definition of networking.
How to Network With People – What is Networking?
So what does networking with people mean?
This is simply the process involved in building a mutually beneficial relationship with other people, mainly by interacting with them and exchanging information.
It is usually done with the aim of forging a long-lasting relationship that can benefit you sometime in the future.
The person you are networking with would most likely also feel the same way.
Different types of networking with people have been identified.
It is worth noting that networking with people can begin right in your company or the organization you work for.
In such situations, you can build a good relationship with another employee in your organization working in a different department.
Most times, this is aimed at gaining knowledge in a particular field or getting support to carry out some important tasks.
Additionally, there is also personal networking, which is mostly practiced by individuals on their professional journey or career path.
This is mainly done with people who are outside your organization or company.
For such networking, the goal is to learn one or two things from these ones, and also let them know about your skills and expertise.
There is also the goal of using these networks when situations warrant it in the future.
It is worth noting though that a networking relationship isn’t meant to be parasitic, in that you only leach your networks.
Nor should it be perceived as you asking or begging for favors.
Rather, it is more of a relationship that is mutually beneficial both in the short-term and long term. And of course, it offers a lot of benefits.
How to Network With People – Who Should Make Up Your Network?
In the area of networking with people, there are no specifics or limitations as to who should be a part of your network.
As a matter of fact, those you decide to network with largely depend on what your networking goals or objectives are, and what you stand to gain from these ones.
Having said that, there is a wide variety of people and businesses you can include in your network. Some of these are:
Present Colleagues at Work
One beautiful thing about the workplace in most organizations, if not all, is that there is diversity in place.
That means that no two or three persons are the same, both in expertise, skill, experience, and even personality.
Therefore, this can be a very good place to start your networking.
These ones might have access to the information you do not have or other networks that you can leverage on.
Past Colleagues at Work or School
Just as your present co-workers are very important to network with, so are those you’ve worked with in the past.
It is normal to experience situations whereby an employee leaves a job either voluntarily or by termination.
When this happens, it doesn’t help to simply forget about such an employee or write them off your book.
There is a very big chance that these ones would make a good part of your network and offer some needed support and assistance sometimes in the future, whether near or distant.
This hits both sides; the one working for an organization as an employee and one who owns a business as an employer.
If you are an employer, you’ve probably had reasons to terminate employees in the past.
However, how did you fire the employee? Networking is one major reason why it is good to fire employees nicely.
An employee might need to leave your organization because you do not see them as a good fit, either for your business or the culture.
However, you might in all honestly know that such an employee isn’t totally a failure or bad.
They might be strong in other areas, areas which might be of benefit to you in the future.
Hence the importance of building a good network with these ones.
On the part of an employee too, you might have had reasons to change your job in recent times.
But what is your relationship with your former employer?
As much as possible, it is also good to maintain good rapport and relationships with such ones.
This is because they can form a great part of your network.
Pardon us for not putting this first, as “charity they say begins at home”.
Those words can’t be any truer.
Within your family circle, you can build great relationships that will benefit you both personally and professionally.
So if you are one of those who do not have good relationships with their family members, now might be the right time to mend it.
Professionals in your Field
No one man is an island of knowledge.
Therefore, if you will be sincere with yourself, you will agree that even in your own field, you do not know everything.
Hence the need to build networks with other professionals in your field.
These ones might have more experience or have more knowledge, and this will help you grow.
If you are a student, of course, this can be professors or other lecturers in your school department.
Are you a business owner? If yes, then your customers can also form a part of your network.
At the point of doing business with these ones, you might feel like the most important party, as you sell a product or offer a service.
However, it is worthy of note that your customers might equally have their own businesses or have access to contacts and information that you don’t.
Hence, this is a very good network to build.
Some people say humorously that “friends are for disturbance and inconvenience”.
However, your friends should be more than just partners for banters and jokes.
Your circle of friends can equally be a great network.
Acquaintances and Those You Meet Randomly
It could be while waiting for your meal at a restaurant or when waiting in line at the bank.
It can also be when jogging along a street or working out in the gym.
Basically anywhere you find yourself.
You should be deliberate about looking for opportunities to network with people.
Know what your goal of networking is and find those who fit into that goal.
On this evidence, you would agree that your network is not limited.
It can be made up of a variety of people of different relationships with you, ranging from people you know quite well to random strangers.
The main focus is to network with those who fit in with your personal and professional objectives, and whose relationship will benefit you.
How to Network With People – How Networking Might Benefit You
You might wonder: “Why do I have to network with people?”. “Is there any notable benefit that comes with this, or am I just better off staying on my own?”.
Well, to be candid, there are many reasons why networking is very important.
And that is whether you are a business owner, a graduate looking for a job, an employee working in an organization, or just an individual with a dream and aspiration.
Here are some of the benefits that come with networking with people:
This is arguably one of the main reasons why people network.
If you work as an employee in an organization, there is a big chance that such an organization has a structure in place to support your career growth and development.
However, the truth remains that the main responsibility to do this rests on your shoulders.
You can do this with people working in the same organizations like you, others in your industry, or even in other industries.
When you network with people with this level of diversity, you are exposed to a lot of useful information and guidance.
And this would help you to make an advancement in your chosen career.
Exploration of New Career Options
A change in one’s career path is something that happens many times.
Sometimes, as you go on your chosen career path, you might find that it doesn’t particularly interest you anymore or is no longer beneficial.
Hence, a change might be necessitated.
At such a difficult time or phase in life, having the right network in your next chosen career or industry would prove to be very beneficial.
Sharpening of Skills
If you are someone who has a skill in high demand which is also frequently influenced by a change in technology, you will appreciate the value of networking.
It doesn’t matter what your skill level is, you will always find professionals who are better than you.
Building a strong network with such ones will help you sharpen whatever skill you have and also broaden your horizon in your profession.
Securing a New Job
We live at a time when getting a job isn’t as simple as ABC.
In fact, it has become very difficult and doesn’t look to get easier given the high influx of job seekers in the labor market every year.
If you work on building a strong and strategic network, you can have an edge in this area.
There have been many cases of people securing a job through their networks and that might be the case for you too.
A lot of organizations are now turning to their networks when looking to hire new employees to their companies.
This has proven more effective and even less expensive than running a proper recruitment procedure or using a recruitment agency.
If you own a business, you might find your network of family members, friends, and/or fellow business owners useful in this area.
You see why it might be very beneficial to network with your customers as noted earlier.
Building a strong relationship with your existing customers can help you get referrals from these ones, and also give you sales leads.
This would in turn help increase your customer base and generate more income.
Making New Friends
Actually, networking does not necessarily have to be for the purpose of building a professional career or getting opportunities.
Sometimes, the reward we get from building a network with people might just be making new friends.
And if this is your aim of networking, it is well in order.
How to Network With People – The Steps You Should Take
If you are finding it difficult to network with people, please be assured that this is very achievable.
Whatever your fears are, be it phobia of starting conversations with strangers, fear of what response you will get, fear of being looked down on or neglected, or even want of time, you can overcome these challenges.
Here are some strategies that have proven very effective when networking with people and building strong relationships with them:
1Clearly Define Your Networking Goal/Objective
This is actually the very first thing you need to do even before you start building your network.
You need to determine what you want networking to do for you.
Take a look at some of the benefits of networking discussed above to ascertain what you want networking to do for you.
If you do not have your objective for networking clearly in mind, you will not know where to look, neither will you know who to add to your network.
Because of this, you might be wasting a lot of time making the wrong connections and building the wrong network.
You might also not find your network useful when it matters most.
2List Out Category of Those You Want to Network With
After you must have defined what the goal of networking is for you, the next line of action is to identify who you want in your network.
Your goal of networking would automatically direct this process.
It might help to make a list of industries where you want to network with people, and what kind of people you want to build a network with.
You might not be able to get specifics with names at times, but it helps to list out categories.
Doing this would help you to train your subconscious to identify opportunities for networking.
Not only that, but it would also help you make a deliberate effort in starting conversations with these ones and building the network.
3Look In The Right Places
While you might sometimes just happen to stumble across people who would make up a good network for you, it doesn’t always work that way.
When you want to build your network with the right people, you actually need to be intentional about it.
That means going out of your way to look for these people you want to add to your network.
Where can you find them?
We already mentioned family, friends, co-workers, former employers e.t.c.
In addition to this, you can find some of these professionals on social media.
You can follow them on Twitter or connect with them on LinkedIn.
Additionally, you can make it a goal to attend seminars and conferences, or hangouts of business professionals, as they also provide a good avenue to connect and network.
4Speak Up at the Right Opportunity
When you finally find the people you want to network with, and you have a moment with them, you need to be proactive and speak up.
However, while doing this, you need to be careful that you do it at the right opportunity.
Be careful not to interrupt these ones when they are still talking or trying to have a conversation.
Nevertheless, when you notice you have their attention, politely introduce yourself.
Your introduction would cover areas like your name, and what you do.
You can also politely request their business card while offering yours before departing.
5Make Them Understand the Mutual Benefit of the Relationship You Seek
As you try to network with people, always have it at the back of your mind that it is a give and take relationship.
As such, you do not want to come off as being selfish or someone who is just begging for favors or seeking his own advantage.
If you send such signals at the beginning, it can be a turnoff for potential networks.
Instead, be quick to state what you do and how you can be of assistance to them.
If anything, a request for a favor or what they can do for you should even be the last thing to come up at a later time.
6Always Follow Up a First Meeting
We mentioned earlier that you should be prompt in introducing yourself and asking for contact information at the first meeting.
However, your work doesn’t stop here.
You need to endeavor to follow up on the initial conversation you have with these ones.
Try to keep in contact with them using whatever means available, and not forgetting to offer your help in any way you can.
7Make the Discussion as Brief as Possible
The people you are looking to add to your network surely have their own busy schedules and other engagements.
Hence, when you have the opportunity to meet with these ones, try not to take their time.
Planning ahead of time would help you to achieve this.
It helps to go straight to the point and get the conversation over with as soon as possible.
This would make them comfortable with you, not get irritated, and open to further discussions at other times.
8Be Open to Referrals from Your Primary Networks; Both Present and Potential
What do we mean by this?
Surprisingly, the people you have in mind to network with might not turn out to be your most useful network.
It might be that they know of other people who would be more useful to you for what you seek.
Therefore, it would help to be around people who might have others you really need to add to your network in their circles.
They can refer you to these ones, and you can then network with them.
9Ask for Information, Not a Job
When networking is mentioned, a lot of people instantly start thinking of networking with industry leaders to secure a job.
Even if this is the main goal of your networking project with people, avoid selling that idea openly when building networks.
Instead, ask these ones about valuable information that can help you secure the job you seek.
Who knows? They might be the ones to direct you to the job opportunities when they come up.
Always remain to say “thank you”. This is very important.
And when you think of it, there are a lot of things to be thankful for. You can appreciate them for their time, the attention, and the valuable information given to you.
Even if you feel that you are not getting what you seek at present from your potential connections, still show appreciation for the little they offer.
When you show an appreciative spirit this way, you will get the opportunity to receive more from them.
Final Thoughts – How to Network With People
Still afraid of networking? Or are you yet to see the importance of networking with people?
Well, obviously, the benefits that come with this are quite many.
It would help to let go of whatever reservations you have, and go out there, invest in your network and enlarge your circle.
If you do not try, you will never know what amazing opportunities lie install for you by networking with people.