Everyone recommends networking as the key to starting your career, advancing in your career or building a loyal customer base. In fact, around 80% of job opportunities are found through networking. As for myself and all the other introverts out there, networking sounds less than appealing. As a university student, I dreaded going to all organized networking events, round tables and the like. Many of these networking events involved one or two employers and the rest were students with identical degrees, desperately looking for a job or internship. Students swarmed the employers with feigned smiles and ingenuine head nods as if smiling the biggest was going to get them a job on the spot. I didn’t see the value you in participating in the whole charade. I didn’t understand how something could be so successful but feel so fake.
With a little more experience under my belt, I realized that there can be a right way to network – by building relationships. Relationships extend beyond generic introductions and feigned smiles. Connecting with people based on shared interests, goals and personalities can be much more valuable in the long run. Creating genuine relationships with people can build trust, provide partnership and mentorship opportunities and build a loyal employee and client base. Building client-based relationships has become increasingly important due to the increasing similarity of product offerings. Differentiating by service standards and personal touch can make all the difference in customer loyalty. Just like the university students with identical degrees, building a personal connection can be the differentiator in your success.
Here are a few tips to remember the next time you are looking to grow your network or build relationships:
- Quality over quantity – Don’t pass out as many business cards as you can in the hopes that something will play out. Concentrate on the few people who you are interested in partnering or working with and connect with them on a personal level, giving them your full attention.
- Sustain a connection – Reconnecting is important. When you contact someone after years of never touching base, there are probably less likely trust that relationship because there was no effort put in to sustain the relationship.
- Listen and learn – Listen to what they have to say and learn how you can help each new connection.
Do you have any tips on building your network through relationships? Post your tips and tricks in the comments below or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
– Jocelyn van der Geest, Research Analyst