All of my communications professors would use that word in statements like these: "Networking is what will get you far in life" and "The best way to meet people is to network." Grrrr...I used to be so confused. Maybe 'cause my classmates didn't question it, I didn't feel comfortable raising my hand to ask what networking was. Shame on me.
But it didn't take me very long to realize I was already doing that. At Nordstrom, I would share with my personal customers that I also love to write and how I would be graduating with a print journalism degree. They in turn would ask me if they can give my number to their daughters who needed help figuring out what they should study in college. I would strike up conversations with gals at coffee shops if they had really great style, which would eventually turn into giving each other leads to fabulous places to shop. To this day, I've yet to Google or look up the word "networking" in a dictionary. I just trust what it can accomplish. To me, networking is the process of sharing and receiving information while building a working relationship with a person, organization, company, etc., all in the most natural, innovative, and healthiest way possible.
One of my graphic designer friends recently said to me, "You're lucky. You doing well because you know a lot of people in the industry." I immediately reminded him of the tireless nights I have had and continue to have due to writing, emailing current and prospective contacts back, creating activity on social media, and basically, working my booty off. I told him "luck" or anything for that matter didn't just happen to me. I've been out of college for 10 years, and I still understand that all relationships take work -- professional ones, no doubt. He then responded with, "True. You're right. Maybe you can help me with that."
So, all that said, I'd like to give my top 5 tips to successful networking. I'm not a know-it-all; I'm just sharing what I have experienced based on my trial and errors (many errors). There are tons of books out there that I'm sure deliver helpful, wise info to keep you moving in the right direction. And, well...these are mine. Hope they keep you inspired:
1) Be proactive. Soooo...you're at a cocktail party and you're chatting with someone amazingly interesting. After your wheels start turning and you realize that you'd like to continue communicating with him or her after the party, especially because you two vibed so well, remember to ask for a business card or a Twitter handle, or something. Whatever you do, don't walk away with regret. Let that person know you are somebody too, and be genuine on why you would like to continue to keep in contact. If you're the first person to reach out, with confidence, you'll probably impress that person and show him or her you mean business. Feels much better to walk away with a smile. Believe me.
2) Use social media. Speaking of social media, if you're not on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, etc., you gotta spend some time working on that. If you are pursuing a passion and you're not on a major platform, you're missing out on the potential for opportunity. I get 90 percent of my fashion, celeb, lifestyle, entertainment, and health news from social media. I either get it directly from the source or I get it from a friend or follower (in which I then research facts later on). Having direct contact to some of the biggest influencers, decision-makers, companies, and celebrities in the world is pretty powerful. And of course, you can communicate with some incredible, like-minded individuals. Don't you wanna be up in the mix? Do you think that if a company you were trying to work for looked you up online and found nothing about you or your work...that you would impress them? Think about it. And with that, try to keep what you can professional. Remember, you can always have different profiles for different reasons.
3) Give and do not expect the same in return. I can't tell you how many times I've promoted articles, songs, music, books, TV shows, and tons more regarding people I respect. Some of these people I know on a personal level and some are technically strangers. Because I promote what I think is great and what I think others would find great too, I don't expect anything in return. Sure, it would be awesome to get recognized from that person, company, or organization I'm promoting...But I've learned to not hold my breath. I don't promote with expectations. Some people are busy, don't care enough, or just aren't interested in building or maintaining that working relationship. Be fine with that. If you reach out to someone and you don't get the results you wanted, you should see that as a personal success anyway because you were proactive. All is good in my world if I don't "gain" anything in return. But all is even better when they do...Yes, that's a great feeling of joy. It's also a great feeling when someone initiates and reaches out to me first. Because I value networking to the extent that I do, I enjoy being reciprocal in some way or another. When it comes to networking, I live by The Golden Rule.
4) Be honest. If you find yourself really interested in interviewing someone...or taking him or her out to be a business dinner...or requesting an invite to an event...Just be honest with your intention. If you're not, things will fall apart in one way or another. Either you will be called out on your BS and you will come across as anything but genuine. (Who wants to network with a faker?) That, my friends, is the quickest way to kill networking. Remember: That person knows that person...knows that person. Don't make a bad name for yourself by choice. Come on.
5) Under-promise and over-deliver. Pretty self-explanatory, and oh-so-very important. Do your best without over-promising on delivery, deadlines, or even products. Just work hard without talking a big game. It's easy to do that when you really do have good intentions, strive to exceed expectations, and are dying to kill a project (in a good way). Just take the time to make sure all of your bases are covered first.
As I put this list together, so many other areas came to mind. But I'd like to leave this post open to you to provide some of your own networking tips. Go for it! Thanks for reading. xo
Looking for some fashion and shopping tips? Check out some of my other articles:
"My 3 Simple, Money-Saving Shopping Tips"
"My #1 Tips to Surviving Bad Customer Service: SPEAK UP"
"Do You Have a Shopping Fund?"
"Top 10 Random Tips from a Personal Shopper"