Technology has opened many new channels in the way we communicate with each other. We snap, tweet, follow, friend, and post daily. Social media provides an easy way to connect with anyone in the world faster than ever before. At the same time, these technological marvels have limited the oldest, most cherished form of communication we all use to grow and nurture relationships: meeting and speaking with each other in person.
This raises three critical questions about the future of networking:
- Does in-person communication matter anymore?
- What’s the most impactful way to network?
- Should you connect with people virtually or from across a table?
I’ve had the opportunity to build relationships, learn from others, and network with people around the world during my 20-year career in various talent roles. Speaking at a variety of events and panels this year has revealed a huge appetite on the topic of networking for the purpose of exchanging human experiences.
How do you engage with your peers and mentors, and start learning from them? You may have hundreds of connections on LinkedIn, but how do you leverage them in a more structured way to maximize the purposeyou’re seeking?
I’m happy to share a networking model I created, and continue to leverage in my career, called the “5Ps of Personal Networking.” These 5Ps can help you create more structure in the way you network and help you discover your self-purpose, define your true passion, and develop your career, as you build your personal and professional networks.
1. Personal Priorities
Identify your goals – Before you begin networking, take some time to figure out what you’re trying to accomplish by defining your personal and professional goals and writing down the outcomes you hope to achieve. This step is important because it helps identify the areas you want to grow in. A key part of networking is to find the things you love the most in your life and intentionally build them into your career plan and find people who can help you along the way.
How do you meet people and learn from them to help you realize and achieve your personal priorities? You must align yourself with the key areas of your priorities and connect with people from those areas. For example, if your priority is to lead a healthier life, think about who you know focused on fitness and connect with them to begin learning how you can improve your health and wellness.
It’s also a good idea to periodically review the outcomes you identified because your priorities may change in the future. Ask yourself if you still have a passion for the goals you set. This leads us to the next “P” in my model.
2. Pursuit of Passion
Find your geniuses – Pursuing your passions should not be difficult. If you break down the components of passion into a formula, you get interest + engagement = passion. In other words, the things you love learning the most (interest), talking about every chance you get (engagement), and teaching others about (engagement), is something you clearly have passion for. Try asking yourself these questions:
- If I had to read 500 books on a topic without getting bored, what topic would you choose?
- What would I be willing to do for the next five years for free?
- If I had complete financial independence, how would I spend my time?
Answering these questions forces you to think about what drives you the most. This is a critical part of understanding your true passions in your personal life and professional career.
Try remembering past activities and experiences that motivated you and inspired you to take action like nothing else could. Once you figure this out, you can begin creating your professional development around it, which leads us to the third “P” in the model.
3. Professional Development
Be a learn-it-all, not a know-it-all – Professional development is all about learning from the domains you are most passionate about and from the people most important to you. This aligns with my personal motto: “learn, do, teach and learn again.” In other words, never stop learning, never stop applying what you learn to your personal and profession lives, and never stop teaching others how they can leverage the knowledge and experiences that are part of your life.
An article from Harvard Business Review talks about the importance of having pre-defined, go-to networks. These networks, combined with my concept of the “Domain Network”, comprise the four types of individuals I count on in my life to help me learn and grow in both my personal and professional development.
- The Domain Network – These are individuals I followed early in my career to build my skills and learn from. They are experts in the career field you are in or want to join.
- The Problem Solver Network – This is a small group of “problem solvers” who help you think about situations rationally, without allowing emotions to interfere with your logical actions.
- The RechargeNetwork – These are people you have a deep relationship with who you can open up to, share ideas by for honest feedback, and reach out to when you run out of creativity and need a recharge.
- The Big Idea Network* – Finally, this type of network is comprised of individuals who have very different ideas than you but can spark your creativity better than anyone else in your life. For example, if you’re an artist, this network may consist of scientists who can give you a different perspective with full transparency.
Once you identify the kinds of networks to grow, how do you go out and find these people to connect with? The next “P” will get you started.
4. Positive Perspective
Build your confidence and open your mind – What are some ways you can lift your confidence and open your mind to prepare for learning from others? Take a leap and the net will appear! In other words, you must be willing to be mentally open to allow deep connections with people to form, and once they do, go out and do it.
Below are some tactics that have helped me throughout my life and professional career:
- Don’t forget to smile – Smiling makes you more open to speak with others, and more approachable for others to speak to you. This kind of body language immediately triggers our brains to create a perception of others.
- Always be prepared byhaving shareable insights – It’s not always who you know, but who knows you. One way to leave a lasting impression with someone is to have a thought-provoking fact or data point that will be easily remembered the next day, making your interaction with the individual memorable as well.
- Escalator pitch vs. elevator pitch – Elevator pitches are useful for introductions you make at networking events. Escalator speeches are much slower, more social, and requires you to leave time for some small talk. Make sure to ask people questions to learn more about their passions and career. They will be more open to share after you impressed them with your self-introduction
- Confidence and openness – You should enter all networking situations with the understanding that everyone has something unique to teach or show you. Try building up the confidence to approach people, even if you never met them, keeping in the back of your mind that you have something valuable to offer them.
Now that you’re equipped with the confidence to approach new people to connect with, how do you ensure you’ll make a lasting engagement? This brings me to my final “P” of personal networking.
5. Power of Now
Make every opportunity a WOW experience – Remember the last time your eyes lit up and you felt like you were on top of the world? I call this a WOW experience. To maximize the connections you make in life, you must have the confidence to be you, in the moment.
My WOW experiences come from meditation, a tool I use to exercise my spirituality. Here’s is a technique I use before important meetings and events that elevates my mind to the present, setting me up for a WOW experience:
- Sit up straight and fix your eyes on an object in the room.
- Bring a big smile to your face (even if it’s fake) and think about a time you felt like shouting…WOW!
- Ask yourself, what was the feeling and did your eyes light up from the experience?
- Slowly close your eyes, take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, make the sound…aaahhh…and repeat twice.
- Slowly open your eyes.
This will help you be in the moment and feel inspired from a previous WOW moment. When you’re in this state of mind, you are your most confident, which allows you to be open to sharing experiences and receiving knowledge from others.
Networking is about giving, being a mentor, sharing your experiences, and being an objective ear to someone that is trying to do what you have already done well. In-person communication continues to be the most rewarding way to grow your network, personalize the experience, and exchange ideas and values. This is the true purpose of networking: connecting with people to exchange human experiences.
To be an effective networker, you must have a plan and structure in place to help achieve your personal and professional goals. Try out these “5Ps of Personal Networking” in your life and begin exchanging your human experiences with others!
Amber Grewal is the Vice President of Global Talent Acquisition at IBM, with 20 years of experience in the art and science of talent attraction and management. She has served in several leadership roles in GE, Microsoft, Symantec and KPMG, where she led the transformation of talent acquisition in the digital era. At IBM, Amber oversees the strategic vision for talent acquisition and is responsible for building strong, consultative departmental functions, talent technology, sourcing and onboarding strategies, workforce demand, and employer branding in competitive and emerging markets globally. Amber also leads numerous activities supporting diversity, inclusion, and gender equality, and recently won a 2018 Industry Leader Award from the Professional Business Woman of California (PBWC) organization for her support for equality for women in the workplace.