Networking - why YPARDians should do it
YPARD is a platform which notably promotes information and experience exchange, so it is all about networking! For this very reason, our first event in Brazil was about “Professional Networking” in partnership with Crea Jovem. The event was held at Crea headquarters in Brasilia on November 28. Our programme started with a brief presentation about YPARD, led by Gabriel, followed by one-hour lecture about “Professional Networking”, delivered by me.
But, you might wonder, what is networking? After all, isn’t it enough to have a profile on LinkedIn? Well, according to most well-known career advisers, the answer is a vibrant NO. Having a profile account on LinkedIn surely can be part of your business networking plan, but it is not the “one and only” strategy if you want to have a very fulfilling and successful career (which is the goal of many YPARDians, I suppose).
Based on many concepts and definitions of business networking, I came up with four main steps that can help you when building your own professional network. They are dived into: (i) finding mutual interest, (ii) deciding to create bonds, (iii) connecting regularly and (iv) learning to be a servant.
The very first step for the process of networking is establishing a mutual interest between you and other contact. This mutual interest is not exclusively related to professional or academic aspects, but also has to do with any other affinity between you and another person. For example, perhaps you both have a similar hobby or reading preference. You could also support same football team (yes, I am Brazilian) or you both may play tennis. Whatever the mutual interest you have, this is the starting point of any potential relationship in business or in your personal life.
Watch out! This step involves a lot of self-awareness and also good listening and observing skills as you have to identify a mutual interest. Besides, try to be as natural as possible. Do not force any mutual interest on someone you would like to have a contact with. Do not be impolite. Be also aware of cultural sensitiveness, including any race, religion and other cultural aspects you have to be careful with when relating with another person. First impression counts, so be wise.
After identifying a mutual interest, you can choose if you will go ahead or not in this potential relationship. In another words, you will decide if you are bonding or not with the other person. But, how will you do it? Well, before going for a serious professional networking, you should make time to draft a career plan where you should take into account your short, medium and long term professional goals. This will help you to have a focused career plan and also to build more efficiently your professional network. As soon as you decide to create bonds with anyone, you should find ways to constantly feed the relationship.
Keep in mind that a relationship will grow only if there is contact with certain regularity. Go for lunch together, invite him/her for a coffee, send a Christmas card. Do not take a long time to make the first contact: some experts suggest 3-4 days after meeting the person for the first time and exchanging personal contacts. In order to make your life easier later, as soon as you receive a card, you can write on it the date and name of the event you met that person.
Finally, the golden rule of professional networking is learning how to be a servant. Unfortunately, some think that networking is all about what others can give you. However, the main purpose of networking is learning how you can serve others. Bryan Tracy, a famous motivational speaker, once said that “Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, 'What's in it for me?'”.
There are many opportunities to help your contacts: you can share an interesting article, you can give career advice, you can tell about a work opportunity. Pay attention on the needs of people around you and find out how you can help them. However, keep it simple. For an efficient networking, simplicity is the rule. Do not try to solve someone else´s problems, but guide them in a way they will find their own solutions.
As said by Arthur Ashe “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome”. Well, the same can be said for professional networking. You might think you will never master it completely, but you will surely learn new and creative ways to improve your relationships along the way.