Four Tips to Win at Networking
The following guest-blog was written by Dr. Aisling O’Neill, Manager of ArcLabs Research and Innovation Centre at WIT, holds a PhD in Entrepreneurship and President of Network Ireland 2021.
When it comes to networking, it’s important to appreciate that it's not just what you know or who you know, it's who knows what you know.
Networking requires time and comes down to putting yourself out there, identifying the networks that will be most effective for your professional and personal development and really engaging with those networks and building those relationships in a meaningful way.
The result will be that more and more people know you, your skills, knowledge, experience and network, and they will be advocating for you even in your absence.
Relationships are key in networking
Building relationships is a key component of networking.
When people understand your strengths, ambition and goals, and those of your organisation or department, and you understand theirs, it sparks amazing opportunities for collaboration.
Four tips to being a better networker
1. Listen first
In order to be interesting to people, you need to be interested. A key component of networking is having a curiosity to learn from others about their work, what interests them and what really drives them.
This is where strong communication skills come into play. Be prepared to ask people about their work and interests and critically, actively listen to learn more and truly understand. So often, the human temptation can be listening to respond, simply seeking a gap to interject.
2. Give and offer support to your network
Networking should be understood as a long game and you should be comfortable to give first without an expectation of immediate return. Approaching networking this way will make the process more comfortable and enjoyable for you with the returns often translating into much more valuable collaborations as trust builds.
For example, Network Ireland is not a referral network, however, many of our members do business with and for each other and this process occurs organically as members seek to support one another.
3. Always try to grow your network
I cannot overemphasise the power of community for business growth – it comes back to the old saying:
‘If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.’
As manager of ArcLabs Research and Innovation Centre, Waterford Institute of Technology’s business incubator, a fundamental part of my role is nurturing a community of entrepreneurs, innovators, academic researchers, investors and regional stakeholders to come together to build business ideas into thriving global commercial entities. Scaling businesses require exceptional teams with a capacity to tap into all the available supports to realise their mission.
4. Engage with your network
Most networking organisations feature business awards and this is a hugely impactful way of showcasing and recognising the achievements of individuals in business.
Each year, Network Ireland Businesswoman of the Year awards and I encourage all members to participate in this process. It’s a brilliant way to let more people know exactly what you do and uncovers opportunities for business and collaboration.
I am a huge advocate of networking and believe it is fundamental to the growth of organisations.
Remember, be intentional about the networks you join, ensure that you engage meaningfully and to make the most of your networking experience, listen, give and grow!
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