Networking: Opening doors and creating opportunities
The saying, It's not what you know, it’s who you know, may be a common phrase but when it comes to business, it certainly rings true. How many times have you heard of someone landing a great work opportunity or launching a new venture through 'someone they knew'? It happens all the time and by playing the game, you can also reap the rewards.
The key is knowing how to network successfully. By connecting with others and developing social and professional contacts, you widen your net, allowing more people – and prospects – to come your way.
Networking is by far the most effective way of finding new work opportunities. In fact, 85 percent of jobs are filled via networking, according to a 2015/16 survey by LinkedIn and The Adler Group. The study reveals that even the most active job-seekers rely on networking as their primary means for finding a job. For those 'less active' or 'casually looking' for another employer, networking outranked directly applying for a job by a factor of 3:1. Even more dramatic was the 7:1 ratio for the most passive candidates.
Another interesting study, Women In The Workplace by LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Co., shows that men and women have different professional networks. Responses from 30,0000 interviewees revealed that while networks were similar in size, men had more male networks and women had more female or mixed networks. As a result, women were less likely to have access to senior male contacts. However, senior executive women agreed that having 'connections' had significantly contributed to their career advancement.
So how can you uncover these networking opportunities? Whether you're seeking a new career opportunity or looking to recruit for an open position in your company/team, you need to establish your purpose. Are you new to the city and want to spread your wings? Or perhaps you are looking for new clients to service. Knowing your target audience and where to find them is most important.
A little research will lead you in the right direction. Think about the sectors, companies you’d like to work for (or service) and then the individuals you need to know. For instance, do they belong to an industry association? What are the current mega trends facing this sector? Are there any relevant upcoming industry events or speakers addressing these issues you could attend knowing that your network of interest are likely to be there? You can leverage helpful online business tools such as LinkedIn for identifying targets and industry media news for events.
Before attending any of these events, it is important to be well prepared with a relevant 'elevator pitch'. This will help you to introduce yourself appropriately and should leave them wanting more. Let them know you are aware of a problem they face, how you can help solve it and how it will benefit them and their clients.
The widely-used Gaddie Pitch is an effective tool and easy to apply to any networking situation. It involves three steps:
- Explain the problem you are trying to solve – think mega trends ('You know how...?')
- Then explain how you can solve that problem – think skills and services ('What we do is...')
- Now highlight the benefits and value you bring by providing an example of how you or your business solved that problem – think positive outcome ('In fact, ….)
Here’s a good example of the Gaddie pitch by Vinspi, an online store for custom tailored men's suits and shirts. No you try it.
Sharing examples of your previous and relevant experience is important as it illustrates how others will benefit from your expertise and the value you will bring. It also increases the likelihood of them accepting your offer of assistance or confidently referring you to someone they know within their own personal network.
Networking is all about creating a genuine and authentic community around common interests, passions and things that inspire you. Forming relationships that are relevant to you and your clients also gives you an edge when times get tough. Invest your time wisely by focusing on like-minded people and relevant events that will result in positive outcomes. And when introducing yourself, a strong handshake and direct eye contact always makes a lasting impression!
Final tip: Remember your ‘elevator pitch’ can serve you well at social functions too. Be ready to engage more widely at your next barbecue. Always seek first to understand your audience before pitching (i.e. who are they? what do they do? What would be of most interest to them?). This will give you the upper hand and ensure your pitch is tailored and relevant to them and their needs. So get ready, you never know who you might meet!
Networking can be uncomfortable and can take you out of your comfort zone. For woman, it can be even more challenging as rooms are often dominated by men. If you would like to learn more about how to be effective and build confident networking skills, connect with me by viewing my profile.
Elly Stone is a founding FlexCoach and is passionate about supporting women in business and helping families transition into parenthood. She specialises in life and business coaching, career management and transitions.