It’s not what you know but who you know
“It’s not what you know but who you know” – This popular catchphrase is one we have all heard at some point in our career. So why when we were growing up, our teachers and parents always put the emphasis on us learning what to know, rather than teaching us how to build connections and a network? Living in Cayman this motto seems even more relevant with the smaller choice of places to go, you are bound to bump into your senior colleague, potential boss, or a competitor at a social event.
So, although I like to think that competence is the most important factor of professional success, and do not get me wrong – what you know is still very valuable, we should not be forgetting to build and use our network.
If the idea of walking into a networking event leaves you with sweaty palms and a dry mouth, then use these five tips to become a networking superstar:
Before you walk into your next networking or social event, spend a couple of minutes thinking about how you can differentiate yourself from others. What will make other people remember you over anyone else? Decide on what you want to share about yourself. You want people to remember you without being that person that spoke about themselves too much! Have a think about what questions you want to ask others too and have answers for those questions – it’s likely they’ll ask something similar! If you are at an industry-specific event, then relevant or current topics are always an easy ice breaker.
- Have a buddy
Having a friend or colleague join you at networking events can make it less daunting. Walking in with someone instantly takes some of the pressure off yourself. However, it is not a good idea to spend your whole time with that one person! Have a game plan before you walk in that you both circulate the room, talking to others but can go to each other if you find yourself standing alone – like a human security blanket!
- Try to speak to everyone
Remember that most people at the event will also be nervous and not wanting to talk to strangers. Instead of worrying about how scary it is, think about how you can make everyone else’s networking experience easier by making the initial conversation. Faking confidence (if you have to) in the beginning, talking through your prepared questions and the profile about yourself and then moving on to another person before the conversation gets stagnant is the perfect way of leaving a good impression!
- Be approachable
If you are still hating the idea of being that person that makes the initial conversation, then you must make yourself as approachable as possible. Standing in the corner with your arms crossed or nursing your wine at the bar is not the best way to attract potential networkers to initiate conversation with you. The best advice here is to smile! Smiling will help you to relax and may even create the opportunity for someone else to walk up to you and start a conversation.
- Follow up
I cannot emphasize this enough! Being confident and oozing charisma at the event will only get you so far. If you really want to stand out from the rest, then follow up after the event. If you have swapped business cards – great! If not, then LinkedIn is your best friend. Try to make notes on people throughout the night so you can find them through their company website or LinkedIn page. Sending a small note with thanks and your details is good enough – people appreciate being remembered!
They say that we are six degrees of separation from everyone – although I imagine in Cayman it must be even less than that so it is likely that your “cold” networking will be fairly lukewarm. However, if you are still of the impression that attending a specialized networking event is far too scary then try reaching out to people on LinkedIn or join one of the many sporting teams here in Cayman!
Whichever way you try to connect – good luck and happy networking!