Networking is the accelerant you can use to set your entrepreneurial career aflame. It can do so much for your career, from letting you meet potential mentors to helping you find contacts and opportunities for your start-up. The problem you likely share with many people is simply not knowing where to start.
1. Approach Networking with the Right Mindset
The problem with most people is that they approach networking as work. Don’t approach networking thinking that it’s all about how many business cards you can get or hand out. Look at it as a way to develop genuine relationships with the people involved in your industry. Treat people as possible friends and not just potential assets.
Become friends with the people you meet. They are going to help take you and your business to the next level. These people deserve your respect and to be treated as more than just assets.
2. Have a Goal
Don’t just network — network with a goal in mind. Have something you want to happen, a goal you can work towards, before you step into a networking event. Think about where you want to be in five years, where the start-up should be. Write it down. Write down what you need to get done in a year to get closer to your goals. Then write down what you need to get done in three months to get closer to your goals.
Look at each of those goals and figure out who can help you achieve them. Do you need a better accountant to help you get the resources you need? Do you need a mentor to teach you a couple of key skills that will allow you to succeed? If you’re having trouble deciding whom you need, simply figure out what you lack and who can fill that hole.
3. Learn How to Connect with People
Knowing how to connect with people is an important skill to have as an entrepreneur. It’s not just for networking, it’s for what happens afterwards. You don’t just make a new friend and then never interact with them. Relationships are ongoing and require maintenance. You need to learn to connect and keep on connecting with the people who will help you succeed.
Ask the right questions. Asking better questions leads to better answers, which results in memorable conversations. Ask difficult questions, such as how they expect to achieve their goals considering the kind of opposition they face.
How will you know which questions to ask? Pay attention, not just to what they’re saying, but how they’re saying it. Learn more about the convention you’re attending and the industries that will be represented, so you’ll have something to contribute to the discussion.
4. Connect People to Each Other
One of the best ways to accelerate the growth of your network as an entrepreneur is to serve as a bridge. Someday you’re going to meet someone who needs something you cannot provide — but you’ll know someone who can help. Take the time to introduce them to each other. At best, they’ll appreciate the effort and then be more inclined to help you find people who can help you solve your problems. At worst, you’ve helped out a couple of your friends. After a few months, follow-up on your connection and find out if you actually helped them.
It is important to note here that you shouldn’t keep score. Do it because you want to help out.
Networking can help you accelerate the success of your start-up and your career as an entrepreneur. It can help spread word about your business and about your skills as an entrepreneur. Talk to people. Connect people with each other. Learn how you can create and nurture relationships with others. You’ll find yourself surrounded with interesting people and your start-up going places you never thought it would.