This is one part of an ongoing series on www.entpathways.com. In this article, we're discussing the skill of networking.
Our program, Entrepreneur Journey, focuses on teaching high school students how to become entrepreneurs. Part of this is learning the skills of an entrepreneur, including networking. Networking is the ability to establish relationships with others, which can lead entrepreneurs to solutions or critical resources to build their business.
Think of the movie Six Degrees of Separation. It’s based on the sociological study where researchers wanted to know how closely individuals in the US were connected to each other. They created letters, placed them in envelopes, and addressed them to certain residents.
The researchers then asked other residents to “deliver” the envelope by sending it to someone they know, who, in turn, had to deliver the envelope to someone they know. They found it took about six exchanges before the envelope reached the final address.
The person sitting next to you now may not have much to offer for building a business. But in five years, they may be exactly who you need. Good entrepreneurs maintain a network of experts whom they can call to get specific answers or resources.
Everyone Has A Key To Your Future
With technology, we may be connected by less than six degrees today. Therefore anyone you run into today could have the next solution to your problem. If you focus on sharing your vision and selling your problem, this allows others to become a part of your network and help you.
Questions Are Free And Welcome
The best way to learn about someone is to ask them questions.
- What do they do over the weekend?
- Which sports team is their favorite?
- What are their interests?
This could lead to two different things: the person will provide clues about how they can help you, or you will still leave a positive impression from showing interest in this person and their life.
You Get What You Are
If you come across as unreliable, you will connect with unreliable people. If you come across as immature, you will connect with immature people.
Networking is more than just seeing what other people can offer. Networking is also about pursuing and maintaining real relationships. It’s important to be genuine and care about others, rather than simply taking from them.
Give as much as you take to build mutually beneficial relationships.
Think about your group of friends. What do you all have in common? What do you all want from life? People with similar approaches to life find each other.
If you want to connect with people who invest in companies, find out where they hang out. If you want to be an NFL football player, make friends with other students who aim to be NFL football players. If you want to be a criminal, hang out with successful criminals.
In order to develop a network to achieve your goals, understand and seek out the type of people who will shape the person you want to be.
Sometimes networking tools are mistaken for networking. Networking tools help entrepreneurs reach out to others and organize information and resources. However, these tools can’t take the place of networking.
For example, think of the business card. Your business card can look amazing and communicate clearly, but it won’t help you at all if 1,000 business cards stay in your desk drawer and never see the daylight. However, if you talk to people and hand your card out, the cards are a tool used to support your networking.
Conferences and workshops exist in many areas. These are usually great learning experiences and easy ways to network.
Identify the best place to build your network and your purpose for networking. Are you looking for others who are just starting their business? Or are you looking for experts in the field?
Conferences and workshops can be expensive or require travel, but if you do your research, they are great networking tools.