You Better Network – expert tips on how to make an impact
Joseph Fenity is the creator of the workshop You Better Network. We caught up with Fenity to try and improve our networking skills.
The presentation you delivered at the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association was a flash course in networking. How much can someone learn about networking in 20 minutes?
I think you’d be surprised! Especially if you move and talk as fast as I do! Since most of us understand the basic concept of professional networking, that gives me a great head-start in my fast-paced 20-minute course.
My crash course in networking incorporates refreshers on simple yet smart networking tricks that seem to have somehow been forgotten. I remind my audience the importance of revisiting some of those classic techniques which still prove much more beneficial than the basic Twitter mention or the totally predictable ‘Happy Birthday!’ wall-posts on Facebook.
The secret is in finding that balance as you combine those tried-and-true old-school networking approaches along with the bold, ultramodern ideas I present. “You Better Network” is really a perfect combination that allows anyone to stand out from beyond the basic LinkedIn crowd. It’s all about standing out and being memorable - in a good way!
Why is networking an important skill for journalists?
It’s no secret that today’s acquaintances are often tomorrow’s sources.
At the end of the day, the fact is that every single person we come in contact with in this world is a potential future invaluable resource. Every person you meet likely has a level of knowledge about - or a connection to - a topic or situation that you’ll one day be covering as a reporter.
When you build a particular ‘connection’ and use your networking abilities to quickly re-connect with that person, you’ll find the story you’re writing more satisfying and informative. When you stay connected with people who have knowledge or information specific to a certain topic in the headlines, it can benefit a journalist a great deal as well as add an incredible amount of value to the story, and in turn, the reader.
These days, more and more writers and reporters are finding themselves covering stories involving new and complex topics. Every true journalist I’ve known has fully understood the power and value that networking has to offer.
Why do some people find it difficult to network?
Many people happen to view the simple concept of networking as a difficult or even daunting one. It makes complete sense when we keep in mind that different things come naturally to different people. Here’s the good news about networking – it’s a learned skill!
So what if it doesn’t feel natural? You’re not alone! People will appreciate the fact that you came off as authentic over natural. In fact, unnatural in networking is more natural than you’d think!
Once you get the hang of being a better networker, you’ll find its like so many other things in life - you just have to work at it.
Like everything else in life, certain things come more easily for certain people and personality types. But authenticity is what people truly value. Maybe you’re born with it or maybe you have to really hustle and put in that extra effort. Being the best and most authentic you is typically a large part of what makes a good networker.
Do we get better at networking as we get older?
If your connecting skills aren’t ageing like a fine wine or gourmet cheese then you might be getting lazy. Start by double-checking your connection - literally. Do a social reality check on your digital connections and platforms. Are you on the same social media networks your colleagues are on? Do you know how to utilise the various networks properly? Are you truly making an effort?
What are some hints and tips to improve your networking skills?
Firstly, get over what you think other people think – especially when you first start connecting with someone. Don’t leave it up to another person or group to identify who you are – tell us who you are! Being as confident as possible is a key part of your job when networking and connecting. Nobody does a better you than you!
Secondly, say that compliment out loud. You’re already thinking it, so why not say it? More often than not there are just as many compliments buzzing around in our heads about someone as there are criticisms. Why not share some of the good stuff? If you’re thinking you like those sunglasses on her or you like those jeans on him, let them know. Will he or she immediately think you’re hitting on them? Who cares! At least the person knows you’re paying attention.
Thirdly, flip that business card and take note. I nearly always take short and simple notes after meeting someone who really interests me. With our incredible and convenient smart devices, there’s no reason why you can’t quickly input a couple of memorable things about the person you’ve just networked with in his or her contact card. Why not just send that person a quick SMS right away? In that text message include a keyword about your initial encounter. The result? You now have a timestamped reminder of your first interaction with that person. If you do it right, later that week when you look back at your phone you should see that you’ve sent something like:
“Nice meeting you, John! Good luck w/ the new job in NYC - London will miss you!”
That says it all, doesn’t it? He’s now a John you no doubt won’t soon forget.
While it’s important to be memorable, it’s equally important that you make sure the people you meet are memorable to you. So, take notes!