Your personal network of people includes friends and relatives, work and business associates, social and sporting contacts; in other words, the people you know or have met. The importance of a personal network is well known and is as applicable to your personal life as to your working career. Follow these strategies on how to network at work and watch as your influence increases.
Many people find networking a scary thing to do; some think that trying to network with co-workers is intrusive. The fact is, humans are social animals and we are most happy and satisfied with our lives when we have a wide and varied circle of friends and acquaintances.
The first few attempts at networking might be difficult, maybe embarrassing or clumsy. Persevere and soon it will be second nature to you. Approach people in a friendly, relaxed manner and they will respond to you in the same way. Share things you are passionate about; when you talk from the heart, you come across as genuine and likeable. Keep networking sessions short and leave them wanting to know more about you.
Be open and friendly to the people you work with; smile at other workers in the hallways. Even if you are shy and don’t make friends easily, you will find that when you smile at another person, they will respond. A smile is the best way to start a conversation.
The best way to create rapport with another person is to ask open-ended questions and then listen attentively to their reply. An open-ended question needs more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. By listening to their responses, you appear interested in what they have to say and people will warm to you. After listening carefully to their reply, ask another question based on their answer, to fully understand. Everyone likes to feel appreciated and valued and this type of conversation enhances the feeling.
People love to talk about themselves, their children and their pets. A good way to start a conversation is to ask open-ended questions about their family, pets and interests. You will soon know if you have similar interests and common ground on which to establish a friendship or business relationship.
Everyone is different and you will soon learn how to communicate with various types of people and those from different backgrounds. This is an important networking skill as well as one that helps to further your career.
Be helpful to those at work without being pushy or opinionated. Offer suggestions to solve a work or personal challenge, offer to stay back and help complete a project with a tight deadline, offer to help a work associate with a large or difficult project. You will acquire new skills and also be seen as a team player and a person who can be relied on. Go the extra mile to be of service to others at work.
Make the most of every opportunity to network; be involved in the more social aspect of working life. If a cake is put on for someone with a birthday, be part of that small celebration. When asked to join a group of workmates for a drink after work, accept the invitation sometimes.
Be a contributor
Find ways to contribute to the workplace. Take a leadership role when it is offered or available. Add value to your workplace; be seen as someone who makes a positive contribution not as someone who just takes without giving anything back. Develop relationships by sharing information that would be of interest to others in your workplace.
Be personal in your approach
Instead of sending an internal email, get up and deliver the information in person or pick up the phone. The personal touch is an important aspect of successful networking.
These strategies will improve how you network at work, build interpersonal relationships and may give you an added advantage when a promotion comes up or when you want to change jobs. It has worked for me anyways.
So, what do you do to network and influence others? What kinds of things have worked and what hasn’t worked? I would love to hear.