In “The Best Is Yet to Come,”the Lord said:
“Professionalism involves order, method, regularity, efficiency, and organization. Professionalism in the Offensive will be manifested by maintaining a prayed-through and realistic work plan that facilitates all the aspects of the Offensive—meeting people, winning new converts, going to the places where you will come in contact with the kind of people you hope to meet. Keeping records of who you’ve met, calling, e-mailing and feeding those you’ve met.”
A common practice these days for doing just that—”going to the place where you come in contact with the kind of people you hope to meet, etc.”—is networking. People in the business world network, professionals in all occupations network, and it’s important. The principles of successful networking can be applied to successful follow up, and there is a lot to be learned from others in the business world whose success depends on their networking skills. This is especially true now that we are all working toward building and expanding our flocks, which will be done through meeting people and following up on them—a.k.a. networking!
In the next few issues we’re going to share a compilation of practical information on networking from various sources—book summaries, online articles, etc. Different people have different approaches. Not all tips will work for you, but some will, for sure. Just take what works for you, and let go of the rest. The point here is to broaden your perspective, help you see networking and follow up more professionally, provide information from those who are skilled in networking, and help you to learn to interact in social or business settings more effectively and gain lasting results.
As you’ll see, there are some networking basics that are repeated again and again. Those basics are key.
So what exactly is “networking”?
Ask ten different people what networking is and you may get as many as ten different answers. A person’s definition of networking probably depends upon how they use this important personal and professional activity. However, whether you network to make new friends, find a new job, develop your current career, explore new career options, obtain referrals or sales leads, or simply to broaden your professional horizons, it is important to focus on networking as an exchange of information, contacts, or experience.
In any industry or career level networking helps you make connections in a personal way and build relationships of support and respect to discover and create mutual benefits. It is a skill set that no serious professional of the 21st Century can be without.
Networking is about being in the right place at the right time. It’s about finding the person who already needs your skills, or your company, or your money. The more places and times you are meeting people, the more likely it is that you’ll find what you’re looking for. It’s about making your interests and needs widely known (a new job, companies to invest in, people to hire, money to raise) and listening to the interests and needs of others. It is a process, not a goal, and should be done constantly rather than only when you have a specific need. Eventually, you will be surprised at the opportunities that appear when you least expect them.
Networking is about making connections, about putting yourself out there and being noticed. It’s not always about making a sale that day or raising a lot of funds, but about building toward relationships and making connections that will open doors for you to be a help to others and to benefit from their help now, as well as in the future.
We all want to be recognized as a force or influence for good in our communities; we all want to be noticed for what we do; we want our needs to be clear and to receive support for it, we want opportunities to be a blessing to others, and networking is a tried and proven method for accomplishing just that.
So let’s have a look at some of the basics.
“You won’t become a great networker by staying behind your desk or at home. Get out into the world and mingle.”—Darcy Rezac
Take seven steps to learn how to network successfully.
N – Never Leave Home Without Them
To build a network you must have business cards. Keep them with you at all times, and give one to everyone you meet. Make giving new acquaintances your business card as routine as telling them your name. Your business card is your “brand.” Make sure it represents you well. Keep it easy to read by avoiding small typefaces. Don’t get too creative; make sure it communicates with people across cultural divides.
E – The Four Es: Establish, Extend, Exchange, Engage
When you meet someone new, remember the four E’s:
1. Establish eye contact.
2. Extend your hand for a firm handshake.
3. Exchange cards.
4. Engage in friendly conversation.
Break the ice with a smile. Avoid a sweaty handshake (Editor: More on “the perfect handshake” coming up next). Do not intrude on others’ personal space, and remember that the dimensions of that space vary among cultures. Use the other person’s name. It is his or her favorite word.
T – Travel in Pairs
For security and support when attending social events, go with someone else. You and your “tag-team” networking partner can look out for each other and help break the ice during introductions. And two heads are always better than one when it comes to remembering names. Choose someone who will be a help, not a hindrance, at a social function. A bored, ungracious or inattentive partner will make you look bad.
W – Working the Pond, Positively
Be relaxed and natural. Act confident but not pushy. Aim to meet new contacts at every social function. Be enthusiastic, even perky. To create your own conversational cluster stand near the entrance. Adopt a “greeting position” and introduce yourself as people come in. Then introduce the new arrivals to each other.
O – Opportunity is Everywhere
Join a club. Become active in an alumni association, business trade group, or chamber of commerce. Volunteer in your community. Assist the needy and help out at events in your religious organization. Gain valuable high-profile exposure by delivering speeches to professional groups. Writing *bylined articles is another great way to become known.
R – Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
The best networkers work at it all the time. They attend events regularly and they don’t often turn down invitations. When these great networkers are out and about, they make others happy because they take an interest in them. They are good conversationalists. One of their secrets is that they always talk about the other person. Adopt a goal of attending several events each week or month. Enjoy yourself while you are there.
K – Keep it Going
Positive networking can transform the business cards you have stuck in your desk drawer into valuable treasures, if you follow up. Stay in touch with the people whose cards you have, by phone, e-mail or handwritten notes. Offer to do something for them. Names on cards are meaningless if you lack pertinent information about them. Therefore, when you receive someone’s card, immediately write what you know about his or her likes, dislikes, and hopes on the back of the card, and the date you entered it. Work to build new bonds and maintain old ones.
Networking Mistake: Neglecting to Follow UpYou already know that you must follow up on people you meet. This is Networking 101. But it bears repeating, because no matter how well we understand the importance of follow-up, few people actually do it.Maybe you think you’re too busy to follow up. Or you lose new business cards in the piles on your desk. Or maybe you suffer from blank computer screen/blank mind syndrome. The fact is, it takes no more than a few minutes to compose a short e-mail to a brand-new contact.
Note: Set the foundation for follow up while you’re talking. Note anything unusual about the other person or the work he does, any details or specifics that you might forget. As soon as you can after your conversation ends, jot down a few notes on the back of his business card—ideas about what to say when you follow up, or the resource you want to pass along.
A few more basic “top tips” from the pros
*Keep in mind that networking is about being genuine and authentic, building trust and relationships, and seeing how you can help others.
*Have a clear understanding of what you do and why, for whom, and what makes your doing it special or different from others doing the same thing. In order to get referrals, you must first have a clear understanding of what you do that you can easily articulate to others.
*Be able to articulate what you are looking for and how others may help you. Too often people in conversations ask, “How may I help you?” and no immediate answer comes to mind.
*Ask open-ended questions in networking conversations. This means questions that ask who, what, where, when, and how as opposed to those that can be answered with a simple yes or no. This form of questioning opens up the discussion and shows listeners that you are interested in them.
*Become known as a powerful resource for others. When you are known as a strong resource, people remember to turn to you for suggestions, ideas, names of other people, etc.
*Follow through quickly and efficiently on referrals you are given. When people give you referrals, your actions are a reflection on them. Respect and honor that and your referrals will grow.
*Call those you meet who may benefit from what you do and vice versa. Express that you enjoyed meeting them, and ask if you could get together and share ideas.
A byline is the line showing the author’s name at the beginning of an article. Basically, a bylined article is attributed to a source rather than being anonymous.
Bylined articles can be any length, and they tend to be based on opinion. They articulate views and opinions that are clearly the writer’s own, without requiring objectivity.
Issues and trends are ideal subjects for bylined articles. Moreover, forward-looking pieces are of high interest. Excerpt from web reprint, “Guide to Managing Media and Public Relations.”
To be continued…