One of the challenges I found when advancing up the corporate ladder of success was the need to be networking. As much as I’d like to take credit for all of my successes, the fact is that other people were also influential in my ability to get a job done. We all need a network of people to help us every day as we continue along a path of advancement.
That first networking event made me so nervous. Forget about just having sweaty palms. I was pretty sure there was sweat dripping down my sleeves. I thought for sure everyone would see me as a rookie, an inexperienced manager at best, and that I would ruin my chances of further advancement before I’d even settled into a new position. That nervousness propelled me to look at how others have conquered networking and it lead me to develop my 3 steps to networking success.
Preparation won’t take away the nerves, but it can make them manageable. Here’s what I do.
Step #1: Know How You’re Different
I often thought that I needed to be just like everyone else in order to be successful. When you blend in, you become a team player. That might work well for job security, but I’ve found that does very little for networking. If you want to conquer your next networking event, then you need to find what sets you apart from everyone else on a professional level.
Your passionate love for German Shepherds might make for some interesting small talk, but that won’t help you form a long-term networking relationship. No one has your exact experiences. Take the most intriguing parts of your personal story and use them to spark incredible conversations. By knowing how you’re different, you’ll know how you can begin to network.
Step #2: Be a Niche Expert
People network professionally because they want to increase their levels of influence within their own circles. This causes them to seek out experts, both locally and globally thanks to sites like LinkedIn, because outside expertise becomes their expertise. I’ve found that when you know everything there is to know about your part of your industry, no matter how large or small that section happens to be, then you become influential.
“What do you do?” is a come ice-breaker question at a networking event. This is the perfect time to offer your niche expertise. “I manage a landscaping business where we transform unused space into natural masterpieces.” It really only takes once polished sentence to convey that you know what you’re talking about.
Step #3: Take Command
There will always be leaders and there will always be followers. It seems like everyone at a networking event wants to be a leader, but that is only a surface observation. I’ve been to dozens of networking events and I can tell you that most people would rather be at home or they’re attending because there is an open bar.
If you want to form a networking relationship, then take it. Offer your expertise in exchange for your central positioning. Host networking events instead of attending them as you grow more comfortable with this process. Become the “go-to” person everyone else wants to have on their team.
Conquering a networking event isn’t easy to do, especially when you’re first getting started. With enough preparation, however, I can attest that you can do anything. Take the first step today. It could be something as simple as starting a Facebook group. When you show that your experiences are valuable, you’ll be able to have people come to you.
Once I discovered that truth, gone were the sweaty palms. Adopt these steps and hopefully you’ll conquer your next event.