For most adults, networking is relegated to the bottom of the to-do list because it is seen as awkward and difficult, even though the returns can be life changing.
But, you can progressively become a pro-networker with these research-based tips:
Reconnecting with old friends can offer the benefit of new, accumulated knowledge and can add to your social capital.
While adults, both connectors and non-connectors, accumulate thousands of connections, they only actively keep in touch with one or two hundred at most. This means that many of your connections are dormant.
In their study published in the Organization Science journal, researchers Levin, Walter and Murnighan found that by reaching out to people you have not contacted in a while, you could benefit from new knowledge that is not available in your current network.
Whether you are looking for a job or a business opportunity, whether you are in search of an important recommendation or assistance, it is likely that your dormant ties will have the requisite knowledge that will point you in the right direction. This does not mean that your immediate or current ties are not worthwhile; but reviving those old dormant relationships can open new doors.
In his new book with Ross Walker, Stanford professor of organizational behavior, Jeffery Pfeffer writes that those who are physically close to influencers have more opportunities to be connected to a wider circle of people.
Think about it this way, if you are the type of person who frequently attends conventions, parties, seminars and other such gatherings, you are likelier to know more people than someone who does not attend such events.
Gaining physical proximity essentially means going to places where you will increase your chances of meeting like-minded people or people who can give you ideas that can open opportunities that were not accessible before.
Pfeffer, in his book People are the Name of the Game: How to be More Successful in Your Career–and Life, calls this ‘seating in the right place.’ In other words, if you want to grow your business and to open those doors faster, you cannot just sit in your own corner and hope for the best.
This leads to the next tip…
Do you usually give a litany of excuses why you cannot go out to that networking event, the conference or meet that potential mentor? You are in good company—many people cite a lack of time or money to network.
In his book, The Start-Up of You, Ben Casnocha, who has studied and researched the habits of successful people, emphasizes the importance of dedicating resources specifically for networking purposes. You could call this the ‘meeting new people fund.’
The amount you set aside will entirely depend on your networking goals—if you are looking to meet someone new five times a week, you need a larger fund than what you would require for making new connections four times a month.
The bottom line: With a dedicated fund, you can eliminate 90% of your excuses.
Many people approach networking thinking ‘what can this person do for me,’ ‘what can I get from this?’
Adam Grant, a Wharton School professor has also studied the behavior of the world’s best networkers. In his book, Give and Take, he points out that to succeed in networking, one must change the question from ‘what can I get?’ to ‘what value can I give?’
It is easy to underestimate how helpful you can be, but there are plenty of opportunities to help someone without trying to get something back in return.
The internet and in particular social media, make it very possible to establish that initial contact with a person of interest. Just by looking up someone online, you can find possible ways to offer the slightest of help.
The rule of thumb is to always think of ways that can make the other person’s life easier based on your own background research about them.
Everyone wants to be connected to the most popular person, the one who is closest to the center of power, the one who knows everybody. Often we undermine the potent power of weak ties.
The truth is, if you want to get closer to the center of power, your fastest way there will often be through a weak tie—a friend of a friend or an acquaintance.
We leverage weak ties more than we recognize. Whether you share a piece of content on Facebook and ask your social media friends to help you spread it, or you reach out to a teammate to help you secure a meeting with an important client, you are benefiting from weak ties.
Building your weak ties means being open to and leveraging every opportunity to meet new people. Many of the people you meet may hold the key to unlocking the doors of opportunity.
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