Mandy Maas, Your Front eOffice
Having healthy networks and partnerships can lead to career fulfillment and countless professional opportunities.
One of the most effective ways to produce quality referrals is to develop a network of relationships and partnerships that you are strategically aligned with. Many people know networking and partnerships are a vital part of doing business, but most don’t know there are technically three type of networking- operational, developmental, and strategic.
Networking helps you develop skill sets, stay on top of the latest trends in your industry, meet prospective mentors, partners, and clients, all while gaining resources that will support your career and business’s development.
3 Types of Networking include:
Your operational network is comprised of people and businesses you need to do your day-to-day work of accomplishing your routine tasks. These are people that don’t work for you, but their participation in your business is important to your success and includes those who depend on you to do their work, which ultimately effects how you spend your time and what you give your attention to.
Your Development Network can be any relationships that help you get tasks and projects done, advance your career, and offer personal and professional support along the way. These relationships can be with your colleagues, family members, community members, individuals you meet in a professional setting, and any role-models that inspire you.
Strategic Networking can be summarized as the process of building professional relationships with people or organizations with whom you would like to work and connect with, through professional and social platforms. Your strategic network can include anyone from friends and family to work colleagues or business connections. This type of networking is all about who and where you want to be in the future. A successful relationship is obtained through mutual interests and is not necessarily within the same type of business or industry.
Engage in Active Listening
While engaging with colleagues and clients at networking events, it is far more important to listen rather than doing the talking. It is fine to present your elevator pitch upon meeting, but after you’ve introduced yourself, it’s important to be an active listener.
Active listening involves listening attentively to a speaker, understanding what they’re saying, responding by reflecting on what’s being said, and retaining the information for later. This can be difficult in large groups and stimulating settings. Be sure to use active listening techniques like paying attention to the speaker’s behavior and body language and or follow along with visual cues such as nodding and eye contact. Be sure to avoid potential interruptions such as fidgeting and pacing.
You may need to brush up on your active listening skills if any of the following questions describe you.
Do you sometimes:
- Give advice too fast and or suggest solutions to problems before the speaker has fully explained their perspective or issue?
- Think about what to say next, rather than about what the speaker is saying?
- Dislike it when someone questions or critiques your ideas or actions?
- Have a hard time paying attention when the speaker has a negative attitude?
- Tell people not to feel a certain way?
- Significantly talk more than the other person?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone, there are easy techniques you can put into practice to become a better active listener. You can find tips on how to improve your active listening skills here.
The Art of Following Up
Once you have engaged with your new connection through mastering the power of active listening, remember to follow up with them within the first day or two after your interaction.
When you’re reaching out, remind the person who you are, where you met, and any relevant details to jog their memory. Mentioning specific things from your conversation, such as any struggles their company is facing, offering a solution or idea to help, and giving a compliment goes a long way!
Networking offers useful insights and unique business perspectives, but developing partnerships and relationships takes time and real work. Your goal is to work in synergy with your strategic partners to learn each other’s interests and goals while keeping each other informed of anything in your business or industry that may affect business operations.
Strategic Networking is often the most overlooked of the three types of networking, and businesses are not taking advantage of all its benefits. It’s natural for networking to result in opportunities and whether you’re receiving feedback, or discussing your perspective on an issue, developing these relationships and partnerships will expand your knowledge, help your business grow, and hopefully help you avoid mistakes and or threats along the way.