How to Network 1.0
Are you a new entrepreneur starting out in the big, scary business world with no clue who to approach and ask for help? Maybe this year your goal is to up your networking game, or perhaps you are in search of a new job? Regardless of the reason, networking is something that needs to be on everyone’s radar.
If you are not networking yet, you should be, because networking is gold.
Not convinced? Let me give you some stats…
According to a study conducted by Oxford Economics, networking is one of the most important ways to find and keep customers. The close rate for meetings is 40%, in other words, a face-to-face meeting ends in a sale/deal almost half of the time.
An additional finding concluded that about 5-20% of customers are found through trade shows, where sales meet clients firsthand. More customers equal more revenue.
Now you are not a business owner, but rather looking for a job, then networking is a definite must for you. HubSpot published a finding stating that 85% of jobs are filled through networking. In fact, according to CNBC, 70% of jobs are never published publicly. This proves all the more reason why networking plays such a significant role in career development, and one could argue in personal development too.
So, what are the next steps?
In this blog, I will give you a beginner’s step-by-step guide on how to network. I will go into detail about the difference between “hard” and “soft” networking, how to create a networking strategy, and of course, some examples of what you can say when introducing yourself at a networking event. But that’s not all, I will sprinkle a few great networking tips so that you can become a networking pro!
Terms and Definitions:
Before we dive in too deep, let’s cover some basics first. There are some networking terms that we need to cover to get a better understanding of the umbrella term “networking”.
“Hard” networking: generally agenda-driven with a clear goal in mind. Often done on a one-on-one basis. Meeting with people in one’s network who can help aid them with a predicament, or asking them directly for help.
“Soft” networking: also known as “socializing”, basically getting out of the house and participating in group events and activities. This can include speaking with others casually about what they are doing, (of course with the intention that such involvements will lead to useful leads, referrals, or opportunities). Seems passive, but it is definitely a less aggressive approach. Some cases can be key to landing a dream job or partnership.
Essentially, one needs to maintain a good balance between hard and soft networking. Having a large social circle can prove to be very valuable, but moreover, having connections in various and diverse sectors is crucial in the world of networking.
Weak versus Strong ties:
Strong ties: close members in your network, with whom you have frequent contact.
Weak ties: acquaintances that would be thoroughly surprised if you called them.
What might surprise you, research shows that weak ties prove to be more valuable than strong ones. A study that was conducted by Johns Hopkins University determined that individuals who sought employment most often received more quality job leads from weak links than from strong ones.
Now we have covered some terms and definitions used in the world of networking, let’s jump right to it and get started!
Where to start?
Even if networking is something that doesn’t come naturally to you, or perhaps you are new to this, don’t worry, this is something that can be learned and practiced.
You’re probably thinking, “okay… nice to know, but I want to know how to network!”
Great, let's get started!
Step 1: Create a Network Strategy
This is probably the easiest step of them all, but it’s likely the most impactful one in the entire process.
For starters, you want to write down your networking goals/objectives. Be clear with what you want to achieve and use your time efficiently to get the results that you are seeking.
Don’t forget: Time is money!
Step 2: Prepare and practice your pitch and tagline
Elevator pitches are as old as the hills, but still wildly used today.
An elevator pitch is a quick summary of yourself. It has to be fast, named for the amount of time it should take to deliver it—the duration of a short elevator ride (roughly 30 to 60 seconds or 75 words). As it can be used for a specific idea or product, you can also use it to sell yourself as a professional. Think of it as a quick, but a memorable introduction.
If you are wondering how to write an elevator pitch, don’t worry, it’s actually quite simple.
1) Who are you?
2) What do you do?
3) What do you want?
Start by introducing yourself:
“Hi, my name is John Doe” and of course, don’t forget to smile and add a pleasantry like: “it’s nice to meet you”
Summarize what you do:
Be very clear with what you do, give a brief summary of your background, include relevant information such as your education, work experience, and or any key specialties or strengths.
Try to avoid jargon and buzzwords. Yes, you need to sound credible and professional, but you also want your audience to understand what you do.
Explain what you want:
This part of the pitch depends largely on what exactly you are looking for. Whether you are interested in a job opportunity, partnership, or contact information. You want to put a strong focus on where you can provide value, or how you are a good fit for the job. Objectively you want to express how your audience can gain from your interaction. Focus on what you have to offer during this section of the speech.
If you’re not very good at improvising on the spot, I’d highly recommend writing a script. Then all that is left to do is practice, practice, practice.
This is a 3-4 word phrase that relates to who you are as a professional. This phase can be used in your e-mail signature, LinkedIn heading, and other correspondences. It helps make you memorable.
If you are struggling to write a tag-line, have no fear, there are plenty of websites to help you find the perfect one:
Pro-tip: write with style Avoid the clichés, as they might be catchy, but they are overused and tacky. Stand out, let your creativity flow and write a tasteful but concise tagline that will make you unforgettable.
Step 3: Find relevant networking events
At this point, you should start researching networking groups. Begin by deciding what you want to achieve to make the attendance of the event worthwhile. There is an abundance of business networking platforms, groups, and formats. From business networking breakfast meetings, mid-morning coffee sessions, lunchtime events to the more common evening business networking sessions.
Here is a list of some networking events that you can join in the Zürich area:
VFU Business-Lunch, Winterthur, 17.02.2022
Women's Hub Day Zürich May 14th 2022
Zürich Tech Job Fair 2022 by Techmeetups
VFU Unternehmerinnen-Treff in Zug, Zentralschweiz, 28.02.2022
If you are, however, looking to join an existing network of professionals, there is a variety of local and global options available.
Local networks such as Impact Hub Zürich or Start-Up.Ch are geared towards start-ups, providing a co-working space that encourages networking.
If you are in search of a global networking group, then BNI is a great option for you. BNI is the World's largest referral networking organization.
To join this organization you have to find a local chapter (group) and attend a meeting. During the meeting, you will have a few minutes to share about yourself/your company and then the chapter members decide if you are a good fit. Once the chapter has been approved, you will be invited to apply for a membership.
It is an investment, nonetheless, you receive valuable training, and by building relationships with fellow Chapter Members you will create a supportive network that can help grow your business.
And for all those job seekers out there, here is something for you!
There are industry-specific events where you can connect with people who share common interests, making for more effective interactions for all participants. As a job seeker, you have the opportunity to exchange knowledge/advice, build relationships with current employees and industry leaders. Additionally, you have the opportunity to ask them about their companies, tips to enter the industry, and what a typical day looks like in their jobs.
The same thing goes for professional development events. Often after a workshop, there is a little time set apart for interacting with attendees and presenters, which is a perfect opportunity to introduce yourself. Moreover, staffing agency events provide an excellent setting to mingle with recruiters. Connecting with a staffing agency and becoming part of their talent pool can be the most direct path to your dream job.
Pro Tip: Leverage Social media
Do not underestimate the power of social media. As we are transforming more and more in the digital world, it is easier than ever to connect with those important contacts without the pressure of a face-to-face meeting that you may not be prepared for. Use LinkedIn to seek out like-minded or key contacts that you want to get in touch with. Simply like or better yet comment on a post they made and start a conversation. That way, when you meet them in person, you can refer back to the previous conversation you had with them online.
Step 4: Follow up
Don’t leave them hanging!
Be active, follow up with your group or community. Sometimes a simple follow-up can make you most memorable, and more likely to get more out of the experience.
Pro-Tip: Take notes Keep a networking journal to help keep track of your networking activities and follow-ups. Be deliberate and review your progress regularly and make adjustments where necessary.
Go out and Network
So, there you have it, a step-by-step guide to get you started on your networking journey.
Keep in mind that you might not always land a great connection, there will be times that you might not find anyone with linked interests. Regardless, be helpful, you may have the opportunity to help someone out by connecting them with someone in your network. Generously, share any knowledge you feel would be useful for them. Be open, be genuine, and thankful. Thank your connection for the information they have given and see if you can help them in any way.
Here are 5 quick tips for effective networking:
✍️ Prepare your elevator pitch
🤝 Be helpful and connect with others
😃 Differentiate yourself from others – be unique
🧑💻 Do your homework and plan your networking
👋 Follow up with your contacts and keep in touch