Every job I’ve ever had has come about because of someone I knew. Whether it was a friend, an acquaintance, or a referral from someone else, I always thought that I was very lucky. I didn’t realize until more recently that it wasn’t because I was lucky.
It was because I am a good networker.
Being a good networker isn’t something that I read a book about (although I hear How to Win Friends and Influence People is a great starting point), or that I had someone teach me how to do. Because it was something that just came naturally, I didn’t really know how I did it.
I’ve spent time the last few months trying to figure out what it is that I do, in order to share these tips with others in an attempt to help them up their networking game. I’ve come up with some techniques that anyone can implement in order to take advantage of the benefits of being a good networker.
After each point, I have a simple to-do item to help you on your way to becoming a better networker.
I do want to make it clear that I am not talking about networking in the “let’s stand around and drink cocktails and make sales pitches about ourselves” kind of networking. Keep reading to see what I’m talking about.
In the words of Napoleon Dynamite, “Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills.” In the world of business, it’s much the same. People are always looking for people with skills. Can you program? Are you a designer? Are you an expert at creating processes?
One of the easiest ways to make connections with people is by having a valuable skill. When I was attending university, I learned how to develop for WordPress (a content-management system for websites). WordPress is one of the most common platforms for building websites, especially for Internet marketers. People are always looking for someone that can help out with their WordPress site, or even creating an entire WordPress theme for their site.
To Do: Make a list of what skills you have that could be valuable to others. This could range from video editing to being a fantastic chef. Is the list a little short? Brainstorm some other skills that would be beneficial to others and make it a goal to learn one of those.
Help Others At Every Opportunity
Those of you who know me personally know that I’m always willing to help out in any way that I can. Sometimes it’s in the form of advice about Internet marketing, other times it’s help with WordPress. My favorite is making mutually beneficial introductions to people.
Most of the time, I don’t receive in return for this help, and I’m ok with that. My experience in networking is that things have a way of working out for you in the long run. Call it karma, call it whatever you want. I just help people for the sake of helping them and it has never hurt me or a relationship with someone.
This last year I sent a few referrals for mobile app development to Riktig. At the end of this year, I got a check in the mail from that very company. It wasn’t for much, but it was the thought that counts. Even if they hadn’t done that, I would still continue to send them referrals because I want to make sure that people who need an iOS developer get put in touch with a quality one.
I’m not saying to take this to an extreme where it hampers your ability to provide for yourself, but I think everyone can find some extra time here and there to help other people.
To Do: Next time someone has a problem or question that you can help with, just do it. Don’t expect anything in return.
Take Someone To Lunch
Who doesn’t love a free meal? I know I jump at the chance to have someone else take me out for food. If there’s someone you want to get to know better, offer to take them out to lunch some time.
In fact, this works so well that when I saw some friends had built a website around this idea, I quickly jumped on board to help write for them. (Check out The Luncheon Project for more information on this.)
To Do: Find someone that you want to get to know. Take that person out to lunch.
Let People Know You Need Something
Finally, don’t be afraid to let people know when you need their help. Part of successful networking is letting others help you out. Someone helping you can be as simple as asking for a retweet about a job opening to getting help on a blog post.
To Do: Ask someone to help you out with something. It can be big or small, just give them an opportunity to help you.
My style of networking has never been about what others can do for me. I’ve always found that I gain more if I think first of what I can do to help others.
What experiences have you had with networking? What have you found useful when networking? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.