For pipu like me, I am very introverted, so networking can be very HARD. But then, I got a new role that NEEDS me to be the networker, so I decided to take the challenge.
A few months before I started this role, I had met someone at my former work life who wanted to do an interview with people in my organization. I took her contact and we worked to make the interview happen. Afterward, there was nothing to bring us together again and I wondered how will I network with this person beyond ‘work’? A few months later, it was her child’s birthday, and she posted something on her WhatsApp status about finding where to get an outfit, I responded, and I started looking for where she could get an outfit for the birthday celebration. Next thing, she invited me to the birthday party, and I decided to get her child a gift. Fast forward two months later, I was at my new job, and I needed to do some work that will require me to get a lot of contacts and this new friend of mine helped me out.
I have learned that to network with people, you must genuinely meet and care for them as humans first. And then you must be ready to deposit into their Emotional Bank Account (EBA) many times before you make any withdrawal for your own needs. It’s very wrong to meet people and ask them for a favor first.
Let me give you a cheat code on what I have learned on how to network:
Talk simply: Everybody is human and wants to feel a human conversation at best. When you are at a networking at some event, don’t start with the big conversations. You can pick one thing from the event, or something entirely abstract that helps you build a genuine conversation. This will mean that you will have to be a person that knows something about everything though, so make it a habit to read up on general stuff.
Find a self-interest or shared struggle: Have you noticed that a lot of the time, your best friend from university is no longer your friend when you both start full adulting life? It’s not pride, it’s because you lost shared interest or struggle with that friend. To build great connections, ALWAYS find a shared interest or shared struggle you have. For example, adulthood is a major shared struggle for millennials.
Pick one person: At an event, out of the thought that ‘you don’t know who can help you’, you might be tempted to think that you need to talk to everyone in the room so you can take everybody’s contact. But picking a few persons to have genuine conversations with might go a long way and you can form better connections afterward.
Budget: Nobody dey talk this one but networking cost oh. You must be prepared to spend money! After you meet someone, you will need to be deliberate about forming relationships. This will mean consciously buying gifts or hosting them to lunch. In any case, money must be spent, and you must budget for this.
Offer value: This can also apply to when you meet with a person that is higher than you. To keep them in your network, you will need to offer free value that is within your area of expertise. This is a sure way to keep people in your network, if you have a service, you think they will be interested in, offer it for free.
It’s okay to do all this and not get the people you want in your network. Networking takes time! Be willing to be patient in building genuine connections over time.
Bio: Rachel Ewere Ogunlana is a communications specialist with over 10 years of working experience. She loves to share knowledge about work and life experiences to help young people make better decisions. When she is not working, she is writing or simply loving the air with a book in her hand. Follow her on Twitter @rachelogunlana or reach out via mail: [email protected]