Full-time MBA alumna, Sandra Sidlauskaite, explains the importance of networking and shares some useful tips and advice on how to network effectively.
Any business school student hears that the key to success is networking. For someone who loves being around people and is very outgoing, I find networking very natural and easy. However, I appreciate that some people find it challenging, do not know where to start or how networking can help them with their career journey. I would therefore like to bust some myths and share some tips on how to network effectively.
What can networking do for me?
You can learn a lot from people and their experiences. With time, you will learn about opportunities, challenges and will start recognising how you can add value. This means that when the opportunity comes up, you will have the network to tap into which could lead to your next role.
Myth – an ability to network is not a skill everyone can master
We all know the difference between introverts and extroverts and are aware that some people are more proactive than others when it comes to interacting with new people. However, this is only one element of networking. Networking is essentially about learning, connection and self-reflection. By asking someone about the challenges in their industry, you can learn how your skills can help resolve these issues. Networking is a lot less about you talking and much more about active listening and understanding another person’s journey.
Network with purpose and know your value
I have been on both sides – as someone reaching out for help and also receiving requests from others for guidance. People lead busy lives and it is really important to make it easy for the message receiver to understand what you need from them. Avoid lengthy messages, extensive personal intros and vague questions. Think of what genuinely connects you with this person. The most effective messages are brief, concise and action focused - what is it that you need help with? How much time do you need? How will this help / impact you?
Remember, networking is not a sprint - it’s a marathon. You need to throw your net wide and learn to articulate your value proposition. People need to remember you for something specific. Say they have a problem, how do they remember you as a good problem solver? If they need someone to grow the business, what is that you have done to expand it? Avoid being generic and think beyond your credentials. If you focus on your MBA or experience, remember, there are many people that have that too. What is that makes you unique? What do you do better than anyone else? You do not need to think big here.
To summarise, networking is not about you asking for a job (in fact, I strongly advise against it), but about developing a common language and connection. This will serve you well. Finally, do not take it personally when people do not agree to help - this is part of the journey.
Be genuine and kind
If a person is going out of their way to speak to you, they will shy away from any arrogance, ‘know it all’ attitude and people with a sense of entitlement. People work with people and interpersonal skills are key so make sure you demonstrate them. You need to show a genuine interest in another person and be prepared to foster and grow the relationships you build. Also, remember to be kind to everyone. You are developing your brand and network unconsciously too. An intern or a junior employee could be your next employer or help you get there.
As I mentioned, networking is a process and it is based on a genuine connection, so make sure you thank people for their time and follow up.
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