Networking effectively can be a very powerful tool for an individual to improve both their personal and professional lives. Although the long-term rewards developed through networking may be tough to see initially, there’s no doubt that this skill can help you land that dream job, build lifelong friendships, and get closer to the leaders in your industry.
Time and money are valuable assets and to spend them on attending events and training sessions that do not equate to a higher paycheck may seem like a waste of time. But, if you don’t understand the power of connecting in today’s world, you are drastically missing out on a serious pillar of our new educational lifestyle and way of learning. There’s a lot more to business networking than showing up to an event, meeting people, pitching yourself and hopefully throwing out 20 or so business cards. By the way, don’t be that guy.
The tremendous value that comes from good networking comes from knowing the fundamentals. I sat with Vancouver’s very own Mark Busse, organizer and host for Creative Mornings Vancouver, Likemind Vancouver, and Interesting Vancouver to learn more about how to gain this value.
Busse is the founding partner and managing director of Industrial Brand, a successful strategic branding and design firm. He now spends a lot of his time investing back into the local Creative Community through teaching, advising, and providing mentorship. If you haven’t heard of Mark, you probably aren’t networking very well in this city. This guy gets it. Oh, and did I mention he also co-founded the popular culinary blog foodists.ca? And you think you’re busy.
“It comes down to building real relationships, fostering them, and giving back as much as you take,” says Busse. It was early in his career when a senior staff member passed down some insight that stuck with him:
People are the most valuable resource we have, and there’s an opportunity to grow this resource every single day of your life. We meet people all the time and can learn something from everyone.
Meeting lots of people is one thing, but you also need to figure out a system to organize all of these new contacts to ensure a chance of following up. If it’s just another card in a shoebox there’s not a whole lot of value there.
“With all of the networking events and tools now, it’s easy to engage in your desired industry and you need to do it. Be active. Do not just keep your head down and work, you need to know what’s going on, who the players are and get involved”.
Networking may feel like an intimidating endeavor at first, so here are seven fundamental keys to get the most out of your efforts:
- Show up to events in your industry.
- Do your homework – know who the big players are that will be there and can offer insight, guidance, and their expertise.
- Have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish from meeting these people and whether they can provide that or not. Be sure to establish these parameters so you don’t waste anyone’s time.
- Be visible. Have a LinkedIn profile, Twitter account, and other ways to display yourself and your work that can be found.
- Be bold. Walk across the room and introduce yourself. You will never achieve your networking goals if you don’t try.
- Once you’ve made a contact, do your homework and see if they can add value to you or not. Make sure they walk the talk.
- Respect people’s time. Show your appreciation of their time through supporting their work and giving thanks.
“If you want to extract value from people, learn how to become of value to them. Through growing your own organized network and contacts, you can begin to help others solve their problems. In turn, you become a very valuable piece of their network and have increased your own value. It comes full circle.”
It was through this process of fostering relationships and building of credibility over the years that has led Mark to this point of being able to fill speaker slots with ease and run these outstanding events. Have you tried getting a ticket to Creative Mornings? Sells out in minutes, maybe seconds.
Yuri Artibise, the ultimate Vancouver urbanist & community activist, seconds Busse’s notions on networking, re-iterating that you need to be interested in others and support them if you want to become more interesting yourself. Artibise, who has recently moved back to Vancouver after stints in Ottawa and Phoenix over the past decade states, “given the population density and everything that Vancouver has to offer, if you are bored, you simply are not trying.”
Note: Some of the best takeaways from networking can be just watching and learning how other professionals conduct themselves, communicate, and what types of conversations they’re having.
Artibise is the Director of Community Engagement for the start-up firm PlaceSpeak who is helping the city of Vancouver bring networking to another level for interacting with local decision-makers. It’s done online in an authentic way with verified users, leading to higher quality and more productive conversions.
Stop playing the “I’m Shy” game and get started. Find groups with common passions and it will be easier to join in on the conversation. If you don’t know where to start, you can always try Meetup.com and find groups with similar interests. If you can’t find what you’re looking for do not be afraid to start your own, like Artibise has with Vancouver Urbanist where you can come out casually have a craft beer and join in on great conversation with like-minded people.
Remember: Building a strong network does not happen overnight. It’s Relationship Building 101 – like how you wouldn’t ask someone to marry you after the first date, would you? So be patient. There are no magic handshakes. And please – always take the time to meet the speakers. That’s why they are taking time to share and help others. Have fun, socialize, and never stop learning from others.
The old adage of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is still relevant today. Good networking gives you a chance to make your own luck in life. You never know whom you may meet, but if you don’t try there’s no chance.
What have been some of your favourite events from around Vancouver?