Increase your visibility through networking. Setting your sights on success
At one time or another, we’ve all walked into a crowded room and looked around and realized, gulp, that we didn’t know a single person. For some of us, this can be one of the most uncomfortable business challenges we face. As we nervously twist the obligatory name badge in our hand, we contemplate our options: turnaround and walk out, stand in the corner busily fussing with our smartphone as we wait for somebody to approach us, or we put on the obligatory badge and forge confidently into the room knowing that there is an opportunity to build new relationships and extend our network
As a follow up to her successful Fall 2014 Career Conversation—Visibility: give the world a clear line of sight to your success—Andrea R. Nierenberg, president of The Nierenberg Consulting Group, answers some frequently asked questions and shares some essential best practices and tips for increasing one’s visibility through networking and building those essential business relationships.
Networking is a misunderstood word, Nierenberg says, and for successful leaders net- working—structured, serendipitous, or subconscious—should be a 24/7 state of mind.
“In every encounter, you have the opportunity to learn something new, give something away, ask how you can help, say thank you, or implement a follow-up strategy,” Nierenberg says.
Why is networking a leadership skill?
Nierenberg: Leadership is the art of accomplishing goals with other people. A network can help leaders complete efficiently and effectively, enhance their personal and professional development, increase their visibility, invest in future leverage and opportunities, and help others grow.
What are the different types of networking?
Nierenberg: There are three main types of networking: operational, personal and strategic. Operational refers to building internal relationships. Personal are those external relationships that can contribute to knowledge and best practices. A strategic network encompasses internal and external relationships oriented toward future priorities. Strategic networking entails making a list of the key people in your industry or profession who you would like to meet. Also, identify the organizations and people you know who could help you connect: clients— internal and external; colleagues; friends—professional and personal; external business partners; and chance meetings that turn into opportunities.
What are some best practices to developing networking relationships?
Nierenberg: There are several ways to enhance your networking skills, develop relationships, not contacts; seek opportunities for ongoing contact rather than collecting names of people who you have met once; nurture business relationships like any other relationship; and identify ways to be of help, then follow through. Set a goal for every event or meeting you attend. For example, meet two people, make a connection and send a follow-up note, call or email within 2 hours, and personalize your follow up. Send three hand-writ- ten notes a day to say thank you, congratulations, extend an invitation or just to keep in touch. Information is key; maintain a database of contacts and collect information beyond the basic facts about each person. Jot down notes about how you met, the person’s interests, awards, what motivates them, etc. Refer to these notes when following up or before the next contact.
You have stated that increasing one’s visibility is one of the keys to success, what practical advice can you share?
Nierenberg: Stay open to meeting new people and nurturing your current networks—networking is 24/7. Set aside 10 minutes each day to reach out to people using their preferred method of communication; send an article with news they can use; call or text three people to say hello, have breakfast or lunch with a business friend, client, internal or external partner; and set a goal of meeting or reconnecting with one new person every week. Next, build advocacy and alliances by being proactive and getting involved. Follow up with a goal and action plan; differentiate yourself. Be specific and find one action item you can do in the near future. Finally, find creative ways to stay on people’s radar screens; stay memorable. •