Networking, making new business contacts and profiting from them is difficult for some. But networking is often the key to success: from a place in a daycare center to an open CIO position, just about everything is done through contacts. It’s a good thing that networking expert and book author Monika Scheddin reveals her best tips for successfully making contacts – and keeping them.
CIO.en: Ms. Scheddin, why is networking so important??
Monika Scheddin: Networking is the only life insurance we have. This is as true for individuals as it is for companies. If I network today, I’ll have the first prey in two years – it just takes time. Companies also need to be able to think two years ahead and understand what’s coming across industries.
CIO.de: Why does it take two years?
Monika Scheddin, networking expert and author.
Monika Scheddin: As a rule of thumb, you need seven contacts or encounters and about two years of relationship work until relationships are resilient. But that’s the biggest problem: Many people don’t have a goal in mind when networking. For individuals, it can be: Where do I want to go and who can support me in doing so. For companies, that would be: We want to establish a new software – what are the competitors doing?? Where can we avoid making our own mistakes? All about careers on CIO.de
CIO.de: I have a goal in mind – and now?
Monika Scheddin: Now comes the hard part: as soon as I network, I have to forget about the goal. I have to value the person opposite me and approach with a so-called unintentional intention. No one likes to be hunted as prey!
CIO.de: That is certainly difficult.
Monika Scheddin: Naturally! We all have an agenda, but you have to put that on the back burner first. You should see what you have in common with the other person, what topics you have in common. How to work your way through small talk from easy to difficult, from superficial to personal. A good topic of conversation is always a program item at an event. This is how you can get to know the other person. Find common ground, kindly ignore what divides us.
Networking is work
CIO.de: It is precisely this small talk that many find difficult.
Monika Scheddin: There are several reasons. We Germans simply don’t have a small talk culture. A good small talker is someone who listens actively and who has a genuine interest in the topic and in the other person. At the same time, too few companies have real goals. How are executives supposed to network well when the company only provides vague statements of intent? Employees often swim. In addition: We all have enough to do, everyone is under stress. Many people find networking difficult because they have the feeling that they’re not accomplishing anything by standing around and chatting. But networking is work. If you’re really committed, you invest a lot of time in it.
CIO.de: It is often said that networking works well on the golf course or at seminars. True that?
Monika Scheddin: It does. Men in particular are very good at it. But you can also network very well professionally, for example by taking on an office in the trade association of your own industry. And above all, one thing is important: business cards are not a network.
CIO.de: But aren’t more contacts better than fewer?
Monika Scheddin: The mass of contacts is of no interest if I don’t have any quality contacts. Let’s take Xing as an example: In this network you can have hundreds of contacts, but you should ask yourself whether they also fit your personal goal. Personally, I only confirm people I have met once before. If I get a standardized request without a salutation from someone who has 1.has 500 contacts – then I don’t feel like I’m meant to be there.
CIO.en: What can you do wrong when networking??
Monika Scheddin: Many underestimate people because of their appearance. For example, I know a story from a trade show where a man who seemed a little torn asked about machines at a booth. He was treated coldly. Later it turned out that he was the owner of a large clothing factory. This is how a huge order slipped through the cracks. But the most important thing is: If I want to be remembered, I have to position myself.
Networking is difficult for many – yet it is not witchcraft. With a few tips and tricks, anyone can learn and benefit from new contacts.
Networking expert and author Monika Scheddin reveals her secrets of what good networking looks like – and what it’s better not to do. Because the most important thing about successful networking:
For good networking, you need a goal, says the expert. "Whether you want to be Manager of the Year or an expert in quality insurance, you have to invest a lot of time in it," says Scheddin. It takes two years to "harvest" the first contacts can.
"Many people lack the goal in mind when networking", says Scheddin. If you don’t know what you want to do with your contacts, you might as well not do it at all. That’s true for businesses, too, the expert says. You need to give your employees clear goals, not squishy calls to generate more sales. If you have set yourself a goal, Scheddin gives an important tip:
At least temporarily, when you’re at a conference or other networking opportunity. "I have to value the person opposite me and approach them with a so-called unintentional intention", says Scheddin. No one is deliberately exploited. So be honestly interested in your counterpart. Your target must be secondary while you chat with him or her.
Now it’s a matter of making an impression so that the person you’re talking to remembers you even a few days later. "80 percent of people are simply not remembered. Why? Because they want to be remembered competently. But that doesn’t work", tells the network expert. If you want to stand out, you have to be interesting.
To make yourself interesting, you can attract attention with joy: "Joy is the best form of positioning," says Scheddin, says Scheddin. So you can introduce yourself with "I introduced a CRM system for the company and we got an award for it". That doesn’t come across as arrogant, but honest. How to be remembered.
Have so many Xing and LinkedIn contacts that you lose track of them? That does not have to be. "There’s a difference between knowing a lot of people and knowing the right ones, says Scheddin. Therefore she also advises .
. once a year to review the contacts. "If you have too many contacts, you have to thin them out", she says. Whoever you haven’t spoken to in a while should be quietly weeded out.
If you have made good contacts, you should make use of them. But under no circumstances should you exploit them. "Trust is the currency of networking", says Scheddin. You have to be careful how open you can or are allowed to be. But if you don’t reveal anything about yourself, you won’t be perceived as a person and won’t succeed in networking.
Once a company sees networked employees as valuable, it can set up small networking formats during work hours. "If colleagues are allowed to go there, they are happy to go", says Scheddin. What’s important, she says, is that there is an occasion, i.e., a program item, and that the networking format is seen as work. It is nothing else. This also applies to business lunches and dinners.
Getting together for lunch is a popular way to network. "Many underestimate business meals, says Scheddin. "You don’t go there to get stuffed."
Don’t eat salad, the expert advises, and don’t eat spaghetti. You chew your lettuce for too long – and do you know anyone who has never spilled their guts on spaghetti bolognese??
If you accept a dinner invitation, remember you’re being watched the whole time. "What manners does he have, how does he treat the staff, does he give a tip?? You should pay attention to things like that", says Scheddin.
You can and should network in your private life, too. "There’s a wide variety of ways to do that, from parent advisory boards to dance clubs", says Scheddin. This kind of contact is much more playful, she says. Even if it doesn’t always result in a valuable business contact, Scheddin advises that you should never do without it.
A basic requirement of networking: "Collect business cards or confirm contacts on Xing and LinkeIn", advises Scheddin. If you then write to your contacts with genuine interest, meet them for lunch or go hiking, you’re already halay there.
More networking tips are available in the sixth and updated edition of the book by Monika Scheddin: "Erfolgsstrategie Networking", 6. Edition, Allitera Verlag.
Making an impression
CIO.de: What exactly does that mean?
Monika Scheddin: You have to make an impression. 80 percent of people are simply not remembered. Why? Because they want to be remembered competently. But that does not work. You have to do something different, make yourself interesting, that’s the only way to make it work. Even if one is supposed to be embarrassing in the process. Something like this happened to me once. I met with both of my (later) bosses at a job interview.
On the way to the restaurant, Cologne’s cobblestones quickly finished off my boots: I had barely taken a few steps when one of my heels broke off. Inside I was incredibly embarrassed. But I asked them to help me remove the other paragraph as well. Later, I got the job because I was considered to have a proven track record of crisis management. This is how I am remembered by my superiors.
CIO.de: How, then, can you be remembered without an extreme situation such as yours?
Monika Scheddin: It works best with a single sentence. For example, few people can introduce themselves in a single sentence. Remember the famous elevator pitch! So you can introduce yourself with "I introduced a CRM system for the company and we got an award for it".
CIO.de: Doesn’t that seem arrogant?
Monika Scheddin: Monika Scheddin: Well, there’s showing off and "showing off". If I’m really happy about it, show that joy, then you don’t come across as arrogant, but likeable and purposeful. Joy is the best form of positioning.
CIO.de: I network and network – and nothing comes of it. What am I doing wrong?
Monika Scheddin: Perhaps the goal is missing. In other cases, you are not noticeable as a person. If you don’t reveal anything about yourself and sell yourself as a machine, people can’t dock with you. Or: You don’t have the right formats to suit you. Whether you go to the Toastmasters, the Wirtschaftsjunioren or the Elephantsclub you have to know.
CIO.de: Should you network within a company with people below you in rank??
Monika ScheddinThis can be difficult, after all one is measured by the way one is treated. If I like people with edges, I may then officially like them too? You have to keep that in mind. But when I network with younger people as a seasoned manager, it brings recognition. Through her, I might find good new employees, get fresh impulses and good questions. I keep it this way: I network with those who are much younger than me and with those who are much older.
Networking is a sales advantage
CIO.de: But if I’m a successful manager, do I really still need to network?
Monika Scheddin: That is an absolute must! If I want to change jobs, the new company will ask what contacts I can bring with me – so networking is a sales advantage. For example, I can be a member of business networks or industry networks. Nowadays, professional life looks like this: seven jobs in two industries. So in these times, networking is a sales advantage. One should remember: I need to build a network before I need it, so that I can call on it quickly when I need it.
Success strategy networking. Make and maintain business contacts, build your own network. Allitera Publishing House. 6., completely revised and updated edition.
Photo: Allitera Publishing House
CIO.de: Would you like to tell us another secret??
Monika Scheddin: I made the best contacts when I asked for support. This is of course unpleasant. I asked a manager friend of mine to take part in a panel discussion. That was not only on a Saturday, but also on her birthday. We are still networked today. You should always remember: People don’t network for the cause, they network for you. Products and services are interchangeable – but people are not.
CIO.de: When have you reached networking perfection?
Monika Scheddin: When you only have to react. On the one hand, you can be busy as a bee and call or write. Or you’ve increased your appeal so much that people come to you on their own. You can also establish yourself internally as an expert on a particular thing. Once you have achieved a certain level of visibility, your superiors will approach you on their own. It takes more time to build up such a network – but it is much more pleasant.