We live in a fast paced world where, to get ahead, you need to be in the right place, at the right time. How do you do that exactly?

Opportunities don’t magically fall into your lap. You also need to surround yourself with the right people. In a business sense, that means you need the right people in your network.  Particularly your inner circle.

Over the years that I’ve been in business (financial services for over 10 years and 6 years now in the beauty industry), I’ve honed and developed those skills. I no longer fear big rooms full of strangers. In fact, I get a buzz from working the room, building new connections and just having a great time.

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LFW SS14 Somerset House

Here’s a little insight into my networking style.

24/7 ‘Professional you’

I’m always networking. Seriously always. In small ways. That means that I am always professional 24/7 and am always aware that my actions have consequences. I don’t do anything in public that may bite me in the butt later.

I borrowed that idea from an old friend of mine. He once told me that he lives with the conscience, the knowing, that that guy you didn’t hold the door open for could be your new boss.  Or the lady you splash in a puddle, could be your next client. He always has that in the back of his mind as a mental check to just be nice to everybody. And he is. He’s a great guy because of it. And people really like that and gravitate towards him. His network expands immediately without doing a thing other than just being nice.

Rapport building

Talk beauty. Or finance.  Or movies.

Whatever your target contacts are into, say a little something that lets them know that you care about what they do. I’m not saying you should fake interest. Be genuinely interested.

For example, I don’t care for football. A lot of my contacts do. Instead of faking interest in football, I’ll ask questions that show the contact that I am interested in them. I might ask ‘what’s your team?’ But then follow up with ‘What started your love of football?’ Then let them talk. You listen.

Networking circles

How big? How big should your network be? Big. Huge. Massive. But don’t try to keep up with all your contacts all the time. You’ll be exhausted!

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http://darmano.typepad.com/logic_emotion/2008/02/

Focus on your inner circle of 5-10 people you have regular, say weekly contact with.

Then work on your outer circle of people you might see or speak to once a month. This will typically be beyween 10 and 30 people. Think about who in the outer circle might benefit from being inner circle.

Finally keep an eye on the far outer circle. Those you might contact every 6-12 months. Make sure you’re bringing people from far outer to outer circle as and when appropriate for them and you. Keep an eye out for outer circle people that you want to keep in outer circle and don’t let them drift to far outer circle.

My way: 4 steps

1. Be you
Being you is a good thing. Try to be someone else and you’ll fail. Let the ‘you’ come out.

2. Build initial rapport
Ask questions about your contact. Then listen. Attentively. Pick up on clues that may help you to help them later.

3. Be memorable
Make sure you tell them something that makes them want to keep in contact with you. 

4. Keep in touch
Once you’ve made a new contact, don’t let them slip away into your roller rack of business cards. Keep in touch with them. Otherwise, steps 1-3 don’t mean a thing.

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A few of my girls from PFW6 team

I’m a serial networker. Why? I love people. And I’m nosey. I love to find out how people think. What they like.  What they don’t. People are fascinating beings. Yes, networking is great for business, but it’s also just nice to get to know people. My number 1 tip really is to just have fun with networking.