Network to improve your net worth
Of my 500+ connections on LinkedIn and many more outside, one of the skills most people list as having is “networking”. And some of my social and business connections are masters at it, and really do an honest job at it. But why is it that only few can master this necessary skill and gain from it, whilst most others struggle at it and end up doing nothing more than waste their valuable time.
Some key questions I ask myself…Is networking all about ‘personal gain’? Is it as much an art as a skill? Are we born with it or do we need to train ourselves for it? And why its not for everyone?
Networking or ‘leveraging your personal brand’ as I call it, is not about just exchanging business cards and doing 60 second pitches. During my MBA years at AUT, we had networking sessions where it was just funny to see everyone trying to get rid of as many cards as possible, and take as many phone numbers, emails or business cards within the allotted time. The outcome: chasing people who don’t want to know you, or worse being asked to meet without an agenda or planned action resulting in wasted time and effort.
Networking is not lead generation nor is it about sales…it is about connecting with people. The honest approach is getting to know someone and their business / product / service. Before I refer A to B, I spend time in learning about A and scope to see if B would be a good referral. Possibly C and D might be better suited and that way I don’t dilute my influence or personal brand just to look helpful.
And yes, practice active listening with a genuine smile rather than a confused look with occasional nodding of the head. And it’s not about how many ‘likes’ on your social platforms and sharing selfies…it is about getting out there and meeting people in the real world.
Is it for me?
The gains are there for everyone to see but it takes a lot of time and effort to build your reputation in these circles. You will need to spend hours upon hours, to the level of a few months before you get any tangible benefit out of it. But if that’s all you’re after, then don’t even try.
The value of networking
If you have read “Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill” or any other quality business guide books or the lives of successful people, they were all excellent in networking and connecting with people.
It is both a skill and an art….it’s a state of mind where you’re always thinking to help others by adding or sharing value. Never network with ‘price’ in mind, as that’s the surest way to lose your reputation. Genuine work costs money so if you ‘pay peanuts you’ll get monkeys’.
If you value yourself as a person, then please invest in yourself by joining a networking group. It will help you learn how to interact, how to speak, how to engage and how to leverage yourself and others in a positive manner.
Networking opens new connections, builds new markets and channels to source, scope and sell your products and services; and the individuals you meet are your partners in helping your brand grow. So it’s vitally important that you’re genuine, honest and sincere in your dealing with everyone. Quick rich schemes and selfish plots will get you nowhere and you will be quickly ignored or rejected.
A note of caution….stay away from people who use the word ‘network’ to get you to join their pyramid marketing sales group. I wouldn’t like to name any group but you know the ones that exist, and these are legal scams. The best way to lose friends and alienate people and ruin your business, professional and personal reputation.
There are a lot of places to learn to network properly. Join a local sports or social club and share interesting stories. These can range from cricket, rugby, tennis clubs to your horse, bike or motor racing clubs. If you’re business inclined, then join a business group (Chamber of Commerce, BNI, Business Roundtable) specific to your trade or even better, engage in a skill like public speaking (Toastmasters) or volunteering for your local community (Rotary or Lions Club).
Where and how I network?
I spent my childhood volunteering for groups like Leadership Training Service (LTS), Interact and Rotaract (school level Rotary clubs) and then joined Rotary International. In university, I joined and set up the AUT International Students Association and was actively involved with other groups like Ambassadors Association, AUSM and so on. Each of these groups introduced me to people from different nationalities, backgrounds, experiences and languages, and my view of the world became global and inclusive. There was more learning here in these social circles than in the classrooms. Being part of these groups helped me improve my listening, social, participation and communication skills. It helped me be a better salesperson, manager and a leader.
Last month, I joined a very professional and active networking group called BNI Ignite in Sydney (part of BNI International). Their approach was solid and I liked the way guests and members were treated and interacted with each other. The mantra of ‘giving before gain’ stuck with me on a personal level. There is a genuine interest in helping each other and the best part is that you get to meet established business owners and professionals you would have never met otherwise through your existing channels.
Grow yourself, your business and your influence and your personal brand… get active and start networking. It’s the surest way to grow your net worth.
If you found this article interesting, then please share within your network. And comment to let me know how I can improve this post, or my blogging.