Contributed by Ogden Payne
To say my networking skills needed refining in the early stages of my career is an understatement. I often psyched myself out of talking to people, forgot to ask for contact information, stumbled over my words, and asked for too much too soon. It took years for me to realize that the key to networking is about finding a balance that makes you feel comfortable when presenting yourself to people who aren’t familiar with you or what you do.
A reliable, long-term relationship is rooted in quality, trust and familiarity. To get to this stage, you have to be able to initiate an engaging conversation and leave a positive first impression. The following tips are here for you to add to your toolbox, so you can continue along your path to becoming a stronger, self-aware, confident networker.
Be the first to offer value
Let’s be honest, the premise of networking is centered around the idea of connecting with someone who can benefit you. I challenge you to think the opposite. Be the first person to offer value to someone else. Get to know the person and what their needs are, and see how you might be able to connect them to your network. You may only be able to benefit someone by providing a free lunch or happy hour cocktails, and that’s OK! People who believe you’re selfless are more likely to want to help you in your time of need.
Manage your expectations
If and when you decide to offer value first in the relationship, do so without expecting anything in return. You don’t want to be known as the person who is trying to buy favors, so go about your generosity sincerely. If you do want something from someone, be transparent and ask respectfully. There’s nothing wrong with asking for what you need, however avoid trying to sneak your request in off the back of a nice gesture.
It’s tempting to want to list all of your own or your company’s accomplishments when you meet someone you want to do business with. However, a good rule is to leave enough information out of your initial conversation so have more to talk about in a future lunch or coffee meeting. Though you might feel as if this is your one and only opportunity to speak with again, carry yourself with the confidence that you will meet them again. Meaningful relationships are often built over multiple conversations. Think about how a relationship can grow over the next few years, versus what someone can do for you in the next few days.
Ogden Payne is a contributing writer at Forbes Magazine, documenting the business models of up-and-coming hip-hop artists, record labels, and digital streaming services. He has collaborated on articles with Chance the Rapper, Migos, and Dreamville Records, as well as industry professionals such as Dre London (Manager, Post Malone) and Chris Zarou (Manager, Logic & CEO, Visionary Music Group).
In 2017, Payne founded For The Students, a company dedicated to creating to educational programming to provide college students with unique access into the music business. Since its inception, For The Students has hosted its programming at NYU, University of Maryland and University of Texas, Florida State and more.