Networking gives most of us chills. No matter how much we want to master the art of networking, we are truly petrified. Are we saying the right thing? What do I have to offer? Will the other person even listen to what I have to say? How do I position myself? We are scared of so many things but we are very well aware of the fact that ‘relationships matter’. In-fact, relationships are more important now than ever. Relationships could be paramount in order to get a potential internship, mentor or even a job.
But how do students like us navigate through networking events? How do you make a lasting impression?
How do we become a black-belt Ninja Networker?
I have attended several media events (The Festival of Media, SPIKES, APPIES etc.) and have interacted with C-level executives, broken the ice with several industry experts and definitely broken a lot of ‘rules’. But in my experience, here is the top 5 secrets to keep in mind when you are out there in the jungle:
1. It’s not a Zero Sum Game
One of the most crucial things in networking is to have the right mindset. This means that knowing and internalizing the fact that more often than not, effective networking will create win-win situations. Knowing that the outcome of a good relationship will not lead to win-lose situations will move your zero sum game mindset to a mutually beneficial one.
2. Quality triumphs Quantity
I have seen people at events collect business cards like they were collecting Pokémon stickers. Note to self – You do not want to be that person. It is better to talk to fewer people but have impactful conversations so that they remember you. How do you decide who to talk to? The answer is to go with your gut. Almost like a blind date, you will click with some and not with the others. Always go for fewer but more meaningful conversations as a measure of success.
3. Power Distance is in the mind
When we see a name card and read fancy titles- CEO/ CMO/ VP (& the fancy rest), we are honestly scared. On top of that the fact that a lot of us are brought up in high vertical power-distance societies does not exactly ‘help’ us either. But the key point is to convince your-self that power distance is in the mind. These CEO’s/ CMO’s/ VP’s (& the fancy rest) are really looking to see a young burning passion in most of us. You have to remind them of their former selves – passionate and ambitious. You absolutely cannot lose confidence or run away from fancy titles. Everyone is human and that puts us all on the same page.
4. Give more than you take
Many times when we first see someone’s title or the represented company, we often ask ourselves – ‘What does he do? What can he give me?’ The answer to that is, ‘What can you give him?’ The point of networking is not to be a leech – sucking out all the value you can from a conversation, continuously asking a million questions. Networking is about mutual value enhancement. It is important to highlight what value you bring to the table and how you can benefit the other person to sustain a long term relationship and not just a long-long conversation.
5. It is not a short-term transaction
At a networking event, lead generation is extremely important. But what is more important is the ability to nurture the leads to convert them to fulfilling your goal – getting a new learning opportunity, generating sales revenue or simply finding the right career mentor. It is super important to build a relationship with a long term perspective.
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