The current scenario is complicated; it is possible to offset today’s economic crisis by seeking out new opportunities through contact networks. Oddly enough, in ancient cultures such as that of China, the words for crisis and opportunity are represented by the same symbol, even though they are opposites.
Networking is surrounded by numerous false myths and legends. Many people mistakenly think that the quality of a contact network depends largely on its size, when in fact the important thing is not making it grow but keeping it up to date and dynamic. The creation of professional contact networks is a sign of social change—the new direction taken by work and business relationships. More and more people are attending meetings not just to hear the industry’s highest-profile speakers, but for the chance to forge relationships, to sell themselves, to make themselves known. Experience shows that networking can allow you to get more information about companies than you could find on the Internet or social media.
When you’re trying to build or create something, you needn’t be fully sure of what you’re doing; the important thing is to start from a place of humility and link up with someone who knows more and can offer much more information. A good contact network is essential to achieving this. I suggest adopting an outlook of positive curiosity, which provides nourishment and helps you achieve goals.
One tip for creating an efficient and effective contact network is to be the first to give, so that you can expect something in return.
Active networking facilitates the sharing of information and contacts and helps you establish relationships with people who have similar professional interests. Your objective can be to advance your career, to expand your business, to increase your visibility, or to expand your sales network in order to generate more business. Networking and person-to-person relationships are analogous. One tip for creating an efficient and effective contact network is to be the first to give, so that you can expect something in return. It is better to be owed something than to be in debt to others. Be generous with time and effort when it comes to cultivating your network: the more you invest in networking, the greater the value of your network. Make an effort to call people from time to time, answer their emails, and generally lend a hand in any way you can. The only way to strengthen these ties is to be proactive, to be willing to help out in any way, and to build mutual trust.
To network successfully, be empathetic from the outset, be a good listener, and ask the right questions. The way in which you ask questions is particularly important. Interrogating someone straight away is almost like asking for a favor, whereas if you begin by showing an interest in various aspects of the other person’s activity, you are offering an opportunity. In truth, both approaches amount to the same thing, but they are perceived in completely different ways.
Networking requires dedication and commitment. The most important thing is to listen to what others say or ask for, because sometimes our needs are subordinated to what the other person has to offer us. Conversely, one aspect that works against networking is shyness—the withdrawal that occurs because people know their limits and are restrained by them, unable to overcome this reality.
In order to build and develop a good professional network, you have to get out there and meet people. Attend events and participate actively, placing yourself in situations that will allow you to acquire good professional contacts. Cultivate a reputation for reliability or people will never take you into consideration, because empathy is a key concept in becoming successful.
To organize a good professional network, get out there and meet people, cultivate a reputation for reliability, and be empathetic.
On the heels of a failed business project, you can be reborn by leveraging your wide network of contacts: companies, suppliers, and people in positions throughout the chain. You should learn from colleagues and from successful experiences, but it is even more important to learn from disasters so that you can avoid repeating past failures.
As an entrepreneur, you must assemble a select team of close collaborators, advisers, and facilitators to assist you in the various stages of your project, to open doors for other key people, and to keep you from being overlooked. The most important part of networking is not connecting but reconnecting with people. It is vital to fully understand that attending talks and other events is not a waste of time but an investment in your future. It is an opportunity to add value to your network, to give it a boost—a long-distance race where patience is essential.
Before attending an event, do some intense advance research work. Search the Internet and social media for information about the expected attendees to get a feel for the real chances that your profile will complement theirs. At the event, business cards are a key tool for creating professional connections. Even more important than distributing your own cards, however, is keeping the cards of the people who interest you the most. Many people collect these little paperboard rectangles as if they were trading cards, with no regard to their origin or the names that appear on them. It’s just an exchange, a card-swapping ceremony that does not augur any subsequent contact because, in most cases, no deeper connection was initially forged due to lack of time.
After the first meeting, the next key step is follow-up. You have to consider what the other person is like, what sort of personality they have, whether they are shy or communicative, etc. One tip for building a good contact network is to scan all the business cards you have collected at events and meetings and write on each one where and when you met the person, along with any other information or notes that will help you remember what you had in common with the person, as well as noteworthy details about their activity. The goal is to associate a face with each name. This is much easier nowadays, thanks to the virtual world we inhabit. Another positive initiative is to mark special occasions by sending an email, congratulatory note, or voicemail, or even by placing a phone call. Besides being a rather effective way of interacting, connecting, and reconnecting, this approach also has a major impact on the corporate, entrepreneurial, and personal levels.
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