Networking, nowadays you can hardly escape it. But what if you are not that skilled at profiling yourself? No worries. This way you ensure that you still come into contact with people who can help you further.
When network coach Judith Smits came to parties as a teenager, she often had to introduce herself three times. "People just didn't remember me," she says. Once at work, exactly the same thing happened. At networking meetings, she had a hate. But instead of just staying home, she decided to take a different approach.
In the meantime, she has relinquished it and people do remember her. She has made her work out of networking. She wrote a book about it, The FUN Factor . You can make networking better for yourself, is her motto. You can't escape that. "We live in a network economy," says Smits.
"You can still be so good at your work, if nobody knows, chances are that you will be fishing behind the net." Research by the Labor Market for Behavioral Research (AGO) indeed shows that 23 percent of Dutch people found a new job in 2017 through their network. Almost 60 percent of the self-employed were via via new orders.
Great for the born networkers among us. But according to Smits, they are the exception rather than the rule. "The majority of people feel some reluctance to approach a stranger," she says.
Good listening is important
It is a misconception that networking means that you should tell as much as possible about yourself. Networking means that you come and stay in contact with each other. "Good listening is just as important here," says Mark Soons. He is a business coach and author of the book Stop selling, start helping .
Instead of just talking about yourself, he believes it is better to listen honestly to people who could possibly mean something to you. "If you listen carefully, you will find out more about someone," he explains. "That way you also find out what that person needs and if you can possibly be of service to him or her."
Make people curious by helping
Doing something for someone is a smart way to ensure that you appear on the radar with him or her. Soons: "When you help people, they become curious about you. Maybe they can link you back to people who can mean something to you." Just don't assume that this happens immediately. "Many people have the idea that they should get something out of such a conversation right away," says Soons.
"But often you only reap the benefits of networking in the long term." Incidentally, it is useful to maintain contact with the person you helped. That is only possible by sending a simple e-mail with the question whether it all worked out. Soons: "Then someone will be reminded of your existence again."
Fear of being found strange
But before you get that far you will really have to make contact first. According to Smits we find that so difficult because we are deeply afraid that people will find us strange.
But that is not too bad, according to the coach. "You call that feeling the spotlight effect," she explains. "If you approach a group, you probably have the feeling that everyone looks at you and has an opinion about you. While those others are not concerned with that at all."
First contact via LinkedIn
To keep that intimidating feeling as limited as possible, it is best to approach someone who is alone. Smits: "Make sure that you are one of the first to attend a network meeting. The groups have not yet been formed." Another solution is to make the first contact online. Smits: "Most people find that easier."
She therefore recommends that you review the list of participants a few days before the event. "Send a message via LinkedIn to someone you think is interesting and arrange to meet each other at the event." Another place to get into a casual conversation is the bar. Smits: "Also order a drink for the person next to you. Logically you will get talking."