The Power of Networking: Creating Everlasting Partnerships
There is no greater action you can take for your business than networking and building relationships with others. No matter what your profession may be, when you create true connections, you become more and more successful. Why? Because people want to work with those they know, trust, and feel connected to; they want to work with people who they know share the same values and the only way they can learn that about someone is by building relationships.
There is an art to networking. It is not a “one and done” deal where you shake someone’s hand, swap business cards, and present your rehearsed introduction. To me, the best way to network is to build real, authentic, and meaningful relationships and the easiest way to do that is to be yourself. Don’t go to a networking event with an agenda to talk to everybody at the event. Instead, make it a point to focus on honing in on who you really want to talk to and bringing your best self to those conversations. Once a connection has been made, bring some great energy, your sense of humour and, don’t forget, networking is give-and-take – don’t own the conversation. Don’t forget to park the business talk for the night and take some time to really get to know who you’re talking to. Be patient and attentive, make eye contact and smile. If the conversation is going well, relax and lean into it a little more – do not underestimate the power of a great connection!
Over the years, networking and maintaining relationships have been key in my personal and professional development – but it wasn’t always like this for me. It is important to understand that just like anything, your networking only gets better with time and practice. Branching out and putting yourself out there can be extremely nerve-racking. The key piece of advice I give to networking newbies is to not be so eager to sell and to put your focus on getting to know who you’re conversing with and work on establishing that relationship first. If you’re really uncomfortable, you are going to have to push yourself. Some of the things you can do to get comfortable being uncomfortable is to join your local Chamber of Commerce and attend their events, join a committee or a board, attend a networking bootcamp, join Toastmasters, join a networking group, show up at popular community function or festival, speak to a postsecondary class about your area of expertise, or volunteer. Look for any opportunity to talk to and meet new people – this is the best way to get really good at your networking. Practice makes perfect so you have to actually practice this.
That being said, it is important to get out there as frequently as possible, especially when you are new to the workforce. When I started Plan A, my initial goal was attending a minimum of 5 events a month. Networking early in your career is crucial. People need to know what you do and what your purpose is and the only way for them to know that is for you to get out there. Once your confidence starts to build, don’t be afraid to branch out. Push yourself to attend different engagements, expand your network, introduce yourself to your mentors, and remember everyone feels as nervous as you do!
Finally, it is important to remember that relationships must be two-sided to be effective. Start by finding commonalities – do this by doing your research, asking smart questions, being present and of course bringing your best self. Also remember that you have to give to get or as Zig Ziglar put it, “you can have everything in life that you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”
Networking and building relationships can change your game. Just remember, it doesn’t happen overnight, and authenticity, consistency, and patience are key!
~ Sheri Tomchick, President of Plan A Long Term Care Staffing & Recruitment