What Is Networking And Am I Doing It Right?
In one of my past posts, I talked about networking and building relationships as a physician. I wanted to get the idea across that networking should be fun and be to the benefit of both parties.
As physicians, we don’t get the training to teach us about networking. Therefore, we might not understand what it is or how to do it. I know I didn’t understand. It took me years to really get the fact that simply talking to others in a professional environment is networking.
Some physicians come to me with the false impression that networking is manipulative or about asking for something and telling someone what they want to hear. Many of the physicians I work with have initial trepidations about social media outlets like Linked In. They may have heard that others on Linked In or on other forms of social media are just trying to use networking to sell their product. The idea that networking is about building professional relationships and that it can be a fun way to reach out to new people and learn new ideas seems unbelievable.
However, networking is also a part of business and there isn’t any shame in looking at it like that. Networking can build your business and help you sell your product and should be an essential component to your marketing strategy. Some of the people you network with for business you probably wouldn’t choose to be your personal friends.
But how do you network, build your business or find a job in an authentic way?
One of the best tips I ever got on networking is a simple tip and seems intuitive. It’s something everyone aspires to but is much easier said than done.
Here it is: Be liked in a social setting.
Why? As I’ve been saying, networking should be fun and that goes hand-in-hand with liking the person you are talking to. As far as networking for business goes, when it comes down to two similarly educated and experienced individuals, people do business with people they like. I see it over and over in the business world. It’s one reason why companies prefer to hire internally. Someone who is already a member of the team is already known and liked by others at the company. It’s the reason certain vendors and consultants get repeat and new business within companies that “know” them.
So how do you ensure you are a likeable person? What if you are an introvert by nature? What if you don’t think you are any good at “small talk”? How can you be successful even if you don’t naturally attract others through your (self-proclaimed) undeniable charisma?
Here’s a tip that’s worked for many individuals, including myself: Find out what the other person is interested in outside of work.
There are a number of ways you can do this. Ask questions because people love talking about themselves. Be interested enough in what the other person has to say that you can find something interesting or different in those things they say. Someone will usually reveal a personal interest or passion in the first few minutes of a conversation.
For example, say you are meeting with a guy named Bob to talk about doing business with his company. Perhaps Bob likes running. He’s run two 10K’s and is currently training for a half marathon. Before work each day, he’s up at 5 AM and out running a 5-mile tempo run. He will likely reveal this fact after a few minutes of talking with you because he’s proud of himself and his legs are possibly a little sore. This is your chance to ask Bob about his training or his past races – even if you’ve never run more than 4 miles or you hate running. You could even mention your own past (perhaps failed) attempts at running. Before you know it, you and Bob are smiling and have built camaraderie. When you follow up with Bob the next day, it’s easy to include an article you saw in that day’s newspaper, comparing sports drinks to gels and goo while training.
Two weeks later, you may be shaking hands with Bob because you have agreed on a way to work together in an opportunity within his company.
Remember, people do business with people they like.