How to network?
I approach networking like a first date (I hear the snickers but I do remember dating).
There are two simple things I look for:
#1 - must like people
#2 - must like me
I’m always willing to compromise on #1 for #2 :-)
Remembering that this is not a transaction but the start of a relationship that might range in possibility from “share an interest” to new good friend.
I’ve talked about ‘how to’ network before across several posting but here’s the summary for which folks keep asking.
1 - Look over your career and life needs. Create a plan that reflects how you will build those areas and your time frames against goals or milestones. Sounds like work? Well, it is but since it’s also your life and choices, then it’s probably worth it?
2 - Within that plan, figure out your skill set - what you have, what you’d like to have, what you need to have, etc. That will help you on the mentoring side.
3 - Choose events and assignments (jobs, volunteering, social gatherings) that support the plan. Don’t do everything that’s out there. Don’t worry about only doing things that support your plan (yoga is just for me!). Have a yardstick by which you decide what to include and what to turn down.
In general - everyday
4 - Approach everyone as a person rather than as a transaction.
5 - Learn and practice different ways to introduce yourself.
6 - Don’t worry about making every connection count. Like dating, some will be duds.
7 - Listen. This is the best way to build trust and show folks you are genuinely interested in them. Listen to what they have to say. Ask questions and listen to the answers.
At an event
Remember why you’re there - supporting your plan. Remember what you’re hoping this event will contribute to your plan. Talk to people.
8 - Ask questions. Questions do more to kickstart a relationship than a monologue ever did.
9 - Do the “hot potato” (see November 2008).
10 - Make a commitment (to them and yourself) to follow up on likely connections.
Try to enjoy yourself. Whatever that means to you. Would you want to introduce yourself to someone who looked miserable or uncomfortable (especially if you’re feeling that way)?
After an event or chance meeting - Follow Up!
Keep in mind that if you don’t maintain your network, it can die. Don’t start what you don’t wish to maintain.
Follow up doesn’t have to be elaborate; it’s common sense and manners.
• I call or email the person with whom I wanted to have a more fulsome conversation and suggest a time for coffee.
• I send promised information or make contact within 48 hrs of the promise.
Follow up is also a nice way to just check in with folks.
• I call or email with a seasonal hello and suggest a check-in with tea or coffee.
• I offer a tidbit of a good book, website or article as a new ice breaker.
Follow up is important if anyone does any of the above for you.
• Promptly return a call or email (I have a 48 hr window that I think is still polite).
• I write a hand written thank you if someone shares a contact or bit of information that turns out to be valuable for me.
Follow up doesn’t mean you suddenly have a job interview. Many folks turn a follow up into an open invitation to send a resume. Suddenly, it’s a transaction again and we’ve not even left the gate.
Follow up is good manners and a good foundation. It’s a foot in the door. Now you have the opportunity to build trust.