Networking for a lot of us can be a pained activity to partake in for a lot of reasons. For some of us, we feel shy to approach people, and for others, even though we may be bold enough to attempt a conversation, we get lost for words or spend the time talking about a lot of gibberish because do not take the time to prepare our thoughts. However, one thing is common – we are reminded several times through various means to take networking seriously.
The simple fact is, if you want your career to go places and you want to ensure that you hear about every possible opportunity, then you need to network.
So, what is networking and why is it so important? Good networking is a strategic professional skill; it requires adequate preparation and efficiency in making the most of our interactions. The idea of networking is a daily practice rather than a theory that requires top notch communication skills, appropriate appearance and behaviour in conveying some form of information to establish a long-term relationship. Networking is not only limited to the business or work space but can be extended to casual life interactions. Every chance we get as individuals to interact with another person or a group of individuals, we are given the opportunity to network; to present an idea of common interest and pursue it for the good of both parties. Just think of the words of Margaret Wheatley: “Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can go it alone.”
While there are a lot of incredible tools and resources that make it easier to network with people from all over the world, there is still nothing quite like meeting someone face-to-face. In fact, Dr. Richard D. Arvey, a psychologist and professor at the National University of Singapore, shared in his report for Hilton Hotels called “Why face-to-face business meetings matter” that 83% of all respondents believed that the developing of a personal relationship is one of the most important elements of doing business.
For other networking engagements that are pre-planned, take the time to read about the people who will be in attendance; know their interests, what fields they work in, what their roles are, what hobbies they like to engage in. This will give you a wide spectrum with respect to the kind of conversations you can have.
The relevance of networking can never be underestimated or undermined. Below are a few facts shared by Hubspot to communicate the importance of networking:
- 85% of jobs are filled through networking according to research conducted by Lou Adler.
- 41% of networkers want to network more frequently but do not have enough time.
- 68% of entry-level professionals value face-to-face networking more than online.
- Nearly 100% of people say face-to-face meetings are essential for long-term business relationships.
There are 4 levels of preparation you must undergo before you can network effectively:
I find that the common practice among individuals who attend business functions is to skip the preparation phase and simply show up at the meeting or the event. It is essential that you prepare yourself mentally and skillfully before making any appearance. Before you present any idea, you present yourself. Now, if your presentation as a person is not attractive, you will not earn the attention and time space to get your idea of purpose across. In networking, it starts with you and how prepared you are! For me, self-awareness is always key. If you know and understand your weakness and your strengths, you would be able to take these three steps: acknowledgement, acceptance and appreciation.
Self-awareness is a process that requires you to be in constant communication with yourself and to remain conscious of your environment especially pertaining to the feedback you receive from people you interact with. Everything about yourself can be used to your advantage depending on what you know about yourself and how you can apply that skill to make an impact. Being self-aware does not necessarily mean you make the conversation about you. I have found out over the years that people are more likely to interact with you comfortably when you take interest in them. So, when you make people feel good about themselves, they are more likely to feel good about you as well.
Before making an appearance in the professional space to network with other business people, take time to check your “ABC”: Appearance, Behaviour and Communication. When it comes to your appearance, you should take into consideration the function you are attending and dress accordingly. Do not forget that people still judge a book by its cover so, what you wear always matters. A research article by Hubspot stated that 72% of people say that their impressions of people are influenced by their handshake and their appearance. Appearance is not only limited to the attire you wear. However, your clothes should be neat, free of stains and properly ironed. What does your breath smell like? Is your body odor pleasant? Your body odor also accounts for your good or bad appearance. In case you wear cologne, do not be dramatic about it. Always look for a simple subtle scent. Appearance extends to the mental framework you put on as well. Now, if you are having a bad day, it will show in your facial expression. The aim of appearing right is not to look handsome or beautiful. It is to put you in a position of credibility in the space that you are in.
When you appear, you must behave. Your behaviour communicates a lot about you and so does your body language. Did you know that 93% of what we communicate is via body language? 7% words used; 38% tone of voice, volume, rate of speech, vocal pitch; 55% facial expressions, hand gestures, postures and other forms of body language according to research done by Dr. Albert Mehrabian? During communication, it is important to convey an impression of competence and credibility by making regular eye contact, keeping your palms open and facing upwards and sitting up straight. Once you are in the right mindset, you can consciously and unconsciously adjust your outlook to convey the intended message. Your speech and your body language should always be in alignment to allay any form of doubt in the other party. Remember to speak clearly and audibly. If you are going to make a speech, practise, practise, practise. If it is a business meeting or a gathering that would require your input, read up on the topic and stay socially aware with what is trending in the news. It is also pertinent that in communicating, first seek to understand before you seek to be understood. One of the most important skills you should be keen on acquiring is the skill of listening. Why? Because listening validates the value of others and shows respect. Listen to understand, nod your head every now and then as a show of agreement or interest and ask questions.
Potential to Engage
Whenever you show up and show out in your best in terms of Appearance and Behaviour, you must equally deliver in your engagement. Your appearance may only succeed in drawing people to you, but the content of your communication is what determines if they will stick around for a longer period. Are you having meaningful conversations? Do they tie in with the interests of the person you are communicating to? Although the words used are 7% of what you communicate, they have the potential to undermine all the preparation you have done in your appearance and behaviour and should not be taken lightly. Sounding unintelligent, getting visibly upset or frustrated by standoffish and harsh people for instance can all have a negative effect on your networking. In order to become a person who has potential to engage you need to have strong emotional intelligence so that you are not destabilized when someone who engages you is off-putting or carries himself in a manner that should frazzle you. You need to be strong in your character and with your emotions. You must have substance, knowledge of different fields and ideas, and the ability to engage with a diverse group of people on a wide spectrum of ideas and discussion points. This takes intentional preparation.
Preparation for Networking
This focuses on mental, emotional, physical and document preparation. You need to prepare yourself both for engagement within your industry and outside of it. Preparation for your own industry is an everyday affair. If you should be called to network with people in your industry with even 5 seconds notice you should be prepared. Who are your industry players? What are the conversations and issues of interest in your industry? What is the dress code for your industry? How can you develop your own signature so you remain authentic and still fit in your industry? All these are questions you need to have solutions to in your everyday engagement.
Success is when preparation meets opportunity. If you make an effort to always be prepared you will definitely make the necessary impact in your engagements to build strong and productive networks.
Are you ready for TRANSFORMATION?
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo: The H.E.L.P. Coach
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo is a Personal Impact, Professional Growth and Influence Expert specializing in Humanness, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Power – H.E.L.P.
A career spanning over two decades, she has established herself as a Certified High Performance Coach, Speaker, Author, Wellness Expert and award-winning Entrepreneur with a clientele ranging from C-Suite Executives, Senior Management, Practitioners and Sales Leaders spanning 3 continents.
She is the Founder of Dzigbordi K. Dosoo (DKD) Holdings; a premier lifestyle business group with brand subsidiaries that include Dzigbordi Consulting Group& Allure Africa.
Dzigbordi has been featured on CNN for her entrepreneurial expertise. She is one of the most decorated female entrepreneurs in Ghana having being named “CIMG Marketing Woman of the Year” in 2009; “Top 10 most respected CEOs in Ghana, 2012; Global Heart of Leadership Award and, Women Rising “100 Most Influential Ghanaian Women”, 2017.
She can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org and @dzigbordikwaku across all social media platforms.