There’s no doubt about it, when most of us think about networking we bring to mind an early morning or evening gathering over a soggy bacon sandwich or warm glass of wine.
But in doing so, are we missing out on some of the less obvious chances to network? And in turn, standing guilty of ignoring some excellent opportunities to develop ourselves and our careers.
In fact, there are networking opportunities every time we interact with other humans. The quality of that interaction either strengthens or weakens our social capital. To explain, we may be familiar with financial capital (‘investment capital’, ‘working capital’ etc.), but what social capital seeks to draw attention to is the way that our lives might be made more productive through social ties.
Indeed, the only way we can accumulate social capital is through interaction with others; we can’t do it alone. This is why it’s often defined in a more direct way by “What other people say about us when we’re not in the room”.
Working with creative industry clients, whose freelance world revolves around the contacts they make, I often mention "The Bus Stop Test." It goes like this: We are waiting for a bus. The elderly lady next to us in the queue mentions something about the weather. Do we talk with her or do we just nod our head and carry on waiting?
Being open to opportunity often involves finding it in the most unlikely places. We sometimes discount these happenstances for fear of feeling foolish. But who knows whether the elderly lady’s favourite nephew has just been appointed a senior VP and is coincidentally now on the lookout for talented hires to expand his team?
All of this is akin to studies of luck, where scientists have found that ‘lucky’ people are no different to any of us. They just adopt a more open attitude and therefore “consistently encounter chance opportunities”.
So, here are some other less obvious networking tips:
- By 2019, researchers estimate the average office worker will be trading over 120 emails per day. Every outward email is a chance to highlight who we are, so how we construct our email sign off matters.
- Interaction with LinkedIn provides a host of opportunities for us to network. But rather than tooting our own horn, we should note that the best form of networking involves lifting others up through positivity and encouragement. Hence, we should structure our interactions accordingly.
- First impressions matter. On-line photos therefore need to be appropriate for the context and the image we wish to portray (these days, this can be smart without having to conform rigidly to business attire). We shouldn’t spoil the effect by sloppy execution: let’s be conscious of formatting and image size requirements within the various social media platforms. A quick Google search will confirm all the details.
We should also bear in mind that "lucky" people benefit from another skill.
They carry a clear and consistent dialogue in their heads which, when called upon, explains quickly and memorably who they are and what their career project entails. In other words, they have a laser-like image of their desired direction of travel.
If we don’t have this kind of internal story worked out and ready to deliver at a moment’s notice, there’s some very good advice: We should all commit ourselves as soon as possible to construct one!
Darryl Howes MSc is the Managing Director of Strategic Business Network and works extensively with individuals, companies and various organisations to develop network and career management skills. Join the SBN LinkedIn Group and follow the Youtube channel for more tips from Darryl.