Ducere Global Business School
As we emerge from more than 18 months of shutdown, the working world grapples with the persisting loss of the post-pandemic economy. Business closures and unemployment were at historical highs. Trying to thrive and even stay afloat as an entrepreneur or job-seeker was difficult because for so many people, they didn’t understand how to effectively expand and utilize their networks to leverage opportunities and find success.
Though its origin is unclear, the phrase, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” has long been associated with the business world, particularly because the idea that an unskilled person can climb the ladder with a bit of ambition and an impressive social circle, has actually been true for some. However, having both experience and a strong network will propel you to the top.
We all have that friend who seems to know just about everyone. For those types of people, networking may come naturally. However, for others, initiating and maintaining professional relationships can seem like an uncomfortable idea.
The reality is that these days, success and social skills go hand-and-hand. Whether introductions happen face-to-face or screen-to-screen, a meaningful connection is extremely valuable for any present or future goals.
Networking has not only become more popular, but it has seemingly become a necessary step in career progression. With that said, learning how to grow a strong social network will propel you closer to the top.
The biggest ‘don’t’ when actively trying to grow your network is waiting for people to come to you or until you are actually trying to get something. In both scenarios, remember that building a network takes time; waiting is not doing you any good.
Have you ever heard the phrase about the turtle and the hare, “slow and steady wins the race”? This saying is also used in the context of relationships. Like any relationship, you want to think of successful networking as a slower and steadier process. Jumping into anyone's life with too much at once might not seem genuine or trustworthy. In turn, they might be less inclined to help.
“No one wants a marketing pitch as soon as they meet; we need to relate first,” Di Fleming, the Chair of University Engagement for Ducere and Executive Director of the Ducere Foundation, said.
Utilize already existing relationships
Reaching out to any past connections and maintaining any current ones is an easy way to strengthen your network. These relationships can be past or current professors, peers, co-workers, friends of friends, relatives and acquaintances.
“Don’t be shy about using academics to facilitate different kinds of networking opportunities. Obviously for the MBA students, who do the industry projects, forming ongoing networking relationships is a very beneficial outcome of their involvement in such groups,” Ducere Senior Academic Faculty member Ngaire Bissett shared.
Connect through groups
“I recommend joining a professional association that will build understanding and expertise in your current professional arena while also connecting you with others in the same industry,” Fleming suggested.
This could be through industry associations, chamber of commerce, think tanks, alumni groups. or mentorship groups. In fact, join the Ducere Alumni and Student Group on LinkedIn and begin building your global network today!
Form mutually beneficial relationships
Keep in mind when you reach out to someone or initiate a conversation, you should also be bringing something to the table--networking is a two-way street.
Do your homework and be ready to offer resources that could be helpful to them. Even if you feel you are less accomplished than the person you are networking with, no two people have the same experience. There is always something you can bring to the table!
Sign up for networking events
Despite some professional events not occurring like normal, there are many organized networking opportunities that occur completely online.
Ducere offers interactive webinars which facilitate meaningful introductions and discussions to topics in business. Many of these events lead to connections to people from all over the world.
Be a good listener
One of the most important things to master is honing your listening skills. When you let someone speak without interruption, with proper body language, and an appropriate response, you are not just being polite but you are respecting them and making them feel important.
A good way to listen and respond appropriately is by paying attention to any relevant similar interests or experiences you might have that you can bring back into the conversation later on.
Famous poet Maya Angelou once said,“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Along with being a good listener, you can ensure someone feels heard, valued and appreciated by asking them questions about themselves.
People love to talk about themselves. Asking questions kills multiple birds with one stone. Not only are you saving yourself from talking if you are nervous, but you are making the other person feel good.
“Attending an event with unfamiliar faces is never daunting if you concentrate on being interested and not interesting— ask questions and engage,” Fleming noted.
Take the time to follow-up
The first step to network maintenance is following up. “Follow-up on each new connection that you meet at an event or activity, in both real and virtual contexts. There may not be an immediate need, but the communication is in place for future reference. For example, connect on LinkedIn and send a message,” Fleming says.
Don’t be shy
Admittedly, putting ourselves out there can sometimes feel intimidating. So, take baby steps. Introduce yourself to a new classmate. Email one of Ducere’s Global Leaders Faculty after you watch one of their sessions or the present to students. Find ways to connect that aren’t necessarily self-serving. Sometimes, just being friendly and willing to listen to someone else’s hopes or experiences can either trigger new goals for you or serve you down the road.
If you aren’t already a Ducere student, what are you waiting for? There’s no better--or quicker--way to build your global business network. Learn more here.