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29 May 2024

Networking 101: How to unlock value from your network (without the ick)

Networking 101: How to unlock value from your network (without the ick)

Photography: Mikhail Nilov via Pexels


When it comes to moving up in your career, networking is one of the keys to success. But, have you ever felt like you’d rather crawl into a hole than put yourself out there? Well, you're not alone. According to a study cited by the Harvard Business Review, many associate networking for professional gain with negative sentiments.


How do you turn this cringefest around, then? Read on for practical tips on how you can extract value from your network without feeling the ick.


1. Embrace your higher purpose

Begin by grounding yourself in your higher purpose. Networking isn’t about handing out business cards like free candy. Whether you're an entrepreneur aiming to make a difference or a professional seeking to excel in your field, remember that networking is about creating real impact. 


Shift your focus from personal gain to shared interests and causes, and watch as your networking experiences become more fulfilling. For example, if you are a marketing coach working with entrepreneurs, focus on how you’re helping people create businesses that thrive. By sharing what you do, you can potentially help them grow their presence, reputation, and even sales! 


2. Identify your targets

Do your research: before walking into an event, know what you’re after. What are you hoping to get out of this event? Using this information, you can start to pinpoint the individuals or groups you want to connect with. Consider factors such as business size, target market, seniority, decision-making authority, and budget control. Create a comprehensive list of at least ten targets to broaden your outreach and maximise opportunities for collaboration.


Photography: Edmond Dantes via Pexels


3. Give to get   

Networking shouldn’t be a one-way street – no one likes someone who’s always taking and never giving. Ask yourself: what do you bring to the table? 


Clarify your value proposition by reflecting on your strengths, skills, connections, and resources that you can offer. Networking should be an exchange, so set clear boundaries and expectations to ensure mutually beneficial relationships.


4. Craft your pitch

Your go-to tool? A solid elevator pitch. Think about how you can describe your business in less than 30 seconds. But it isn’t just about having one pitch that you recite at every event, though. Tailor your spiel to each event and be prepared to answer questions like a pro.


5. Bring a buddy 

If you’re shy, introverted, or simply unfamiliar with networking events, bring a friend! By buddying up, you can not only ease those jitters, but you may also double the chances of meeting someone who fits your target. There’s nothing better than someone making an introduction for you!   


6. Know when to bail

We’ve all been in conversations that never seem to end, where you have nothing in common. What should you do then? While we’ve all got something to learn from everyone, there is nothing wrong with stepping away from conversations that aren’t feeling useful. 


Some handy tips to use include “Sorry I just need to use the loo,” or “Oh, I’d like to refresh my drink”, or even “It was lovely meeting you, I’d like to do a quick round. Let’s connect on LinkedIn or via email later”. 


7 .  Dream big

Keep an open mind and be ready for unexpected opportunities.  Whether it's securing funding for a venture, forging strategic alliances, or landing lucrative contracts, you never know who you might meet or what opportunities might come your way if you approach networking with openness! 


8. Keep it real

Don’t approach networking with only sales or leads on your mind. Remember that to gain something, you have to give back. Be genuinely curious about others, focus on building authentic relationships, and understand the needs of others. Balance self-disclosure with active listening to ensure a reciprocal exchange of information and insights.


9. Follow up with a purpose

Networking doesn’t end when the event is over. Build on the momentum generated during networking encounters by following up promptly and meaningfully. Engage with your connections on LinkedIn, comment on their posts, and demonstrate ongoing interest and support to foster rapport.


We’re talking about well-crafted emails and personalised messages that increase email open rates and show others that you remember the conversation.  Clearly articulate the purpose of your outreach and the value you offer, paving the way for further dialogue.


Photography: Olia Danilevich via Pexels


10. Believe in the power of networking

Above all, trust in the potential of networking to transform your business and career.  By forging genuine connections and nurturing meaningful relationships, you can unlock network value while staying true to your values. The true magic of networking lies in the profound connections you make and the collective impact you create. Embrace each networking opportunity as a chance to contribute, collaborate, and co-create value – the rewards far outweigh the initial discomfort!


Keen to turbocharge your networking?  Join a community like Launchpad, which will help you build relationships and your network. You’ll be able to connect with like-minded entrepreneurs, gain insights, and scale your business with confidence. Other entrepreneurs’ experiences can offer invaluable guidance, helping you navigate your journey effectively. Harness the full potential of your network now!

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