Make it count.
It’s a cliché but it really is true. You might have 30 seconds to make an impression, so make sure you look the person you’re talking to in the eye, take a keen interest in them, any hobbies or interests from their LinkedIn profile, etc. Anything that can help you build trust with who you’re speaking to will help to solidify you in their mind – and you never know where that will lead.
Build the team around you
You’re a product of your environment. My parents were both in business – my mother worked for Lyndsey Cattermole, who’s one of Australia’s great entrepreneurs and my father had his own business. So, having exposure to entrepreneurship at such an early age really helped in shaping me into the successful businessperson I am today.
I appreciate that I’m fortunate in this regard, but it’s something you can pick up later in life too. Find people you connect with and those whose skills and goals are different but perhaps complimentary to your own, and foster those relationships. You never know if that person is going to end up an investment banker, or a senior partner in a law firm or an accounting firm.
Remember we’re living in a human economy
Sometimes, I think all the talk of living in a STEM-rich economy undervalues that we are still living in a human economy. None of us can achieve greatness without the support of extensive and reliable networks. At the end of the day, it’s the relationships that make the entrepreneur; it is also relationships and the ability to interact with others that make for well-rounded employees.
Some of my most valuable relationships were actually formed at university, and we are still great friends to this day. Don’t underestimate the power of these bonds and the added value they can bring to your career (and life!) further down the track.
Before an interview or business pitch, do you research what your audience likes to do in their spare time? Do you try and establish commonality between yourself and a potential employer or business partner? Do you look people in the eye when speaking to them?
Being able to communicate via different modes, be it in person, over social networks, email or phone is just the beginning. Good communication extends beyond the practical and into the charming. The ability to communicate well with staff, supervisors, colleagues, teachers and anyone, really, is integral to every relationship in life, and networking is no different.
Don’t underestimate the value of academics
It’s a popular myth that some of the brightest and greatest entrepreneurs dropped out of uni in pursuit of ‘the dream’. Take Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, for example. It is commonly thought that these men would have been prevented from achieving greatness if they’d stuck it out at university, but we can’t all just drop out though and begin tinkering with a computer or code.
Sometimes it takes formal education to help us understand what we really want to do to in life. I didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur. I graduated from the University of Melbourne thinking I would be a lifelong corporate worker in big companies such as IBM, KPMG and Ansett. However, it was while working in these corporate environments that I realised that my thinking patterns and what inspired me were misaligned to the culture I was in. Looking back, I know it’s what not I was meant to do, but I wouldn’t be where I am without it.
Naomi Simson is the first speaker in the new University of Melbourne podcast series, Expert Hack. She is best known as founder of RedBalloon, one of Australia’s major tech success stories.