Kingsley Aikins – Entrepreneur – Expert Networker – Educator
Kingsley Aikins is an expert networker and is CEO of The Networking Institute. He has had an extensive career of working in Trade Promotion, Philanthropy and Diaspora Engagement. Having lived and worked in six different countries, Kingsley became passionate about the importance of networking skills to build business relationships.
He describes networking as the ‘glue’ that made everything happen for him, and helped him to thrive in challenging times. Kingsley’s mission at The Networking Institute is to teach networking skills that schools, colleges and companies simply do not. Kingsley has also been involved in other non-profit bodies. They include the Scottish Business Network, Lessons for Life, the Hunger Project and the Clinton institute in University College Dublin, to name a few.
In a world where ‘everybody spends their lives doing urgent things that they forget about the fundamentally important things’, a.k.a networking, we chatted to Kingsley about effective networking. Kingsley made it clear that networking is not an art or a science. There is a process to it. Here are his top tips for making networking work for you.
1. Be proactive
“One introduction or conversation can change your life, but they don’t happen lying in your bed or sitting at your desk. They happen when you’re in motion, when you’re out and about. You do stuff, you talk to strangers, when you put your talents on display. Self starters have to buy into this notion.”
2. You can’t go it alone
“The funny thing is, you can’t go it alone. You can’t achieve what you want to achieve in life on your own. Opportunities don’t float around on clouds, they are associated with people. We often buy into this myth of individualism – to achieve in life its you against the world, you and your personal character. It’s actually about collaborating and cooperating, it’s working with other people. I realised that at an early stage but I also realised that people who build strong and diverse networks live longer, they’re stronger mentally and physically, they earn more money and they’re happier. Networking is an antidote to the big crisis of our times, which aside from covid, is loneliness. It’s the way you are going to get your next job.”
3. Adapt and make use of your situation
“There is real fear out there that we are going to lead to a certain degree of social recession, in other words looking into ourselves. I took a low-tech high-tech attempt at resolving this challenge when lockdown happened. Low-tech was that I just made an effort to reach out to people and make those calls to older relationships which I let slip. Then I took a slightly more high-tech approach and really focused on Linkedin, realising that we might be able to develop a tribe of people who have an interest in what we’re doing. It’s a good idea to generate lots of material, filming lots of snippets, or start doing webinars.
There’s an old irish saying which says, ‘when business is down, that’s when you paint the shop’. Now is the time to get yourself ready for when things will come back. There’s going to be a lot of churn and disruptions and turbulence, but also a lot of opportunity.”
4. Be curious, listen and ask
“It’s really important to be curious, but we live in a world where a lot of people are strangely incurious. Curiosity is about asking questions to begin with; who, what, when, where and how? The number one skill of networking and generally in life is to be a world class listener, but we live in a world where nobody listens. We live in a world where the only reason that people listen is to prepare what they’re going to say next, not to hear what others are saying.
Being a listener who listens to what someone is saying and what they are going to say next is hugely powerful. The other element is a concept which I call funnels of serendipity, random chats – how random chats can change your life. But the question is, can you make random chats happen for you? If you do the right things, speak to the right people, go to the right places, put your talents on display and get out and about, luck enters your life.
The most powerful marketing tool we all have is to ASK. It’s really important to become good at asking. It’s also important to get over the notion of ‘stranger danger’, we won’t build a diverse network unless we get over the fear of talking to strangers.”
What about you?
Kingsley’s passion to make the nation better at networking is motivating and really makes you think. Check out his latest work at The Networking Institute.
So ask yourself, what does your network look like? Are there actions you need to make? Get in touch with Self Makers today.
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