Networking is a vital part of building a professional career and stay in the loop with opportunities out there. It is a well-known fact that individuals who have an established network have an easier time looking for work, build their career faster, and experience greater success overall. Why? Because an established network provides an excellent resource for opportunities that cannot be found in any book, website, magazine, or seminar. Building your network is essential to your achievements in the business world.
A significant part of building your own network is exhibiting proper etiquette when dealing with your network, or those you wish to make a part of your network. There are guidelines to follow to ensure that your networking experience is positive and beneficial. Just like a formal meal, you must exhibit good manners when dealing with those that you wish to help and ask for help. The most important of those manners are honesty, punctuality, propriety, and diligence.
When building your network, you are simultaneously creating your reputation in the industry. Your actions will spread like wildfire through word of mouth, and will not only circulate among your network, but others’ networks as well. Therefore, it is critical you deal with all individuals in your network with utmost honesty.
If you cannot help someone, be honest and let them know your limitations. Don’t oversell your qualities and make them believe you can do something you cannot. It is best if you are known for telling it like it is, then wasting people’s time.
Many times, we may not mean to be dishonest but our actions can be read as dishonest, flaky, or unreliable. For example, you may tell a person you will attend a meeting even though you know you are booked in the hopes you can free up your time to attend. This is bad practice and will come across as dishonest. In this case, it is best you tell the individual your attendance is tentative and you need to confirm your schedule before you can commit. Always try to be absolutely honest and upfront in all your dealings with your network.
Punctuality is essential when dealing with your network. If you show up to a meeting fifteen minutes late, you have already shown you are unreliable, and that their time is not important to you. On the other end, it is imperative you are conscious of time constraints and don’t take up too much of their time. In general, networking is a short and sweet engagement. If using a direct and honest approach, you can glean all the information you need in fifteen minutes. Therefore, don’t show up late, unnecessarily drag out the conversation, or overrun your allotted time. Keep it short, simple, direct, and on time. After all, you have a lot of networking to do!
Propriety is the practice of being polite, respectful and acting with utmost decorum. I like to think of conducting your networking actions with propriety as doing things with good manners. This means always sending a thank you note after a meeting to the individual. Always say “thank you”, “please” and “you’re welcome” during your engagements with others. Use good table manners, open doors, be helpful, and clean up after yourself. Some important manners to be wary of are never disclosing confidential knowledge, and never give out personal information unless you have cleared it through the individual whose information you want to share. You must pay respect to those who are a part of your network in order to obtain their confidence and help, and in return, they will treat you with respect and open doors for you.
Networking requires diligence. You must keep your word when you give it, and follow-up your statements with actions. Telling someone you are going to assist them is not enough. You must follow through with your words and clearly communicate to ensure they understand you are diligently working to help them. Individuals who treat networking with a large dose of flakiness soon find they have no network. Be attentive to your network by setting up regular times to communicate with them. Write down actions you say you are going to perform and add them to your To Do list. Being diligent in assisting others will bring huge rewards when comes time for you to ask for help.
Having an active and broad network can be one of your greatest assets in building your career, including looking for a new job. Dealing with each member of your network with proper networking etiquette, or “netiquette”, will ensure that opportunities will constantly and consistently come your way.
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