Networking: Make friends, not just connections

Make the effort, as often as you can, to accept networking invitations to anywhere you’ll be exposed to people you’ve yet to meet and make friends.

It’s difficult not to cringe when someone talks about networking. Obviously, it’s an integral part of business, but the marketing jargon and expectations that come with the term leave much to be desired.

So, instead of networking, let’s call it something else. Let’s call it making friends!

Whether you’re trying to make business contacts, friends that can help you make other friends, or just normal good old friends, here are five simple tips that will make you a friend-making machine! (See, isn’t this much nicer than networking?)

1. Just say ‘Yes’

When you get the opportunity to meet new people, don’t turn it down. Yes, it can be daunting, putting yourself out there but it will always be worth it.

By putting yourself in a position where you can meet new people, you are sure to be surprised by at least one of them. You may find that you have the strangest things in common, or that you have mutual friends. You may get caught up in conversations you never thought you’d have.

Make the effort, as often as you can, to accept invitations to anywhere you’ll be exposed to people you’ve yet to meet.

2. One at a time

One of the most difficult things about networking events, and the mistake that so many of us make, is trying to give something of ourselves to everyone. If you make one new friend, someone you will keep in contact with after the event, then it’s a success!

Don’t network yourself to death. It’s not a competition to see who can give out the most business cards. Networking should be about striking up a legitimate connection with someone, regardless of whether they have something to offer you or not. If you think about it in terms of making friends, then the relationship you forge is the goal, not the added perks that come with that relationship.

3. Listen and learn

Human nature involves a desire to be heard. Relationships are built on the foundation of shared opinions and insights that can only be discovered through listening.

So, when meeting someone new, don’t instantly talk about yourself and what you do. Ask questions, with the active intent of listening to the answers! Listen to what your new friends have to say, and respond to them, instead of just waiting for your turn to talk.

By listening, you will learn about the people you are networking with. You will understand what makes them tick, the things they like, and don’t like. This will help you so much, especially if you are going to be sharing your ideas with them, as you will learn how they like to communicate.

4. Share and share alike

It’s important to share, through both actions and words. Your new friends will want to know about you, so just listening and nodding isn’t enough. You do need to talk about yourself at some point, but make sure that it fits within the context of the conversation.

Go out of your way to help your new friend. If you want their help, give yours first. Don’t just ask people to do things for you, especially the first time you meet, as this will cause your entreaties to fall upon deaf ears. The old saying goes “Give, and you shall receive.” It’s as true now as it ever has been!

5. Don’t stop now!

Don’t let your friendship end at the end of the event – a common mistake. People start great relationships, and they just fizzle out because nobody bothers to make contact afterwards.

In this digital age that we live in, it is so easy to keep in contact with people. Be proactive and take responsibility for keeping in touch.

The most important thing to remember here is that you are actually trying to make friends. Networking is just the jargon that’s used to make it more business-friendly. So, be yourself, and enjoy yourself, and your network will grow exponentially!

Melissa Penn, National Franchise General Manager, www.firstclasscapital.com.au

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