July 19, 2011
Posted by Joan V. Gallos
A strong professional network is essential for career advancement. How deep and broad are your networks? How are your networking skills?
For some, the art of networking comes naturally. They enjoy reaching out and are comfortable developing diverse relationships across interests, cultures, industries, and countries. For others, it’s a skill to be acquired and deliberately practiced. For all, professional networks are indispensible sources of learning and career opportunities.
Here are ten tips for expanding your networking skills:
1. Be patient. Rome was not built in a day and neither will your professional networks. Relationship building is not linear, and good networkers enjoy meeting people. The more open you are to learning about someone, the better the odds that individual will remember you and your talents when opportunities arise. Let go of wondering whether someone can help you and enjoy the process of getting to know lot of interesting people.
2. Be proactive. Julie Miller Vick and Jennifer Furlong, career professionals and authors of The Academic Job Search Handbook, suggest “informational interviews” as a way to ramp-up your network building. Reach out to people who can provide information about an industry, job, or company. The benefit is a chance to broaden your understandings about the work world – and perhaps learn about new opportunities.
3. Be prepared. Take interactions, no matter how informal, seriously. Prepare, if possible. Identify, for example, contacts or experiences you share: social media sites like Linked In can help. The people you end up speaking with may be helpful down the road in ways you can’t envision now. Leave a positive impression – and burn no bridges. Have a brief “elevator speech” about yourself ready: two or three sentences that tells others who you are, your work interests, and the reason for your call or meeting (if applicable).
4. Be persistent. Good relationship builders bring courage and determination. They initiate, introduce themselves to others, make cold calls, and work the room. They don’t take rejection or unreturned phone calls personally.
5. Be an asset, not a drain. All relationships are based on reciprocity: both parties must benefit from the exchange. People will remember you if they learn something, see shared interests, and/or enjoy you. Remember, first impressions are lasting: make a good one. Ask people to suggest others who might be helpful for the information or access you seek – and if you can use their name in making the new connection.
6. Be courteous. Send an immediate thank-you note after a meeting. Invite your new contact to join your Linked In network. Let others know how things they have suggested turn out. Follow up in simple ways that seem appropriate for the relationship. Pace your follow-ups: don’t seem desperate.
7. Be invested. Care is at the heart of a good relationship. Show that you care – again in professionally appropriate ways. Computers and social networking sites facilitate keeping track of your contacts. Make notes for yourself about each individual (and your meetings) so that you remember history accurately. Periodically email an article that your contact might enjoy. Send a note of congratulations for an accomplishment. Acknowledge a birthday. Let people know about events potential interest and that you are thinking about them. They’ll reciprocate.
8. Be respectful. Here’s where emotional intelligence and the art in networking enter the picture. Be open, not pushy. Demonstrate care, not inappropriateness. If someone offers you 10 minutes of time, take no more. If someone says no to a call or meeting, so be it – and thank people for the consideration.
9. Be open. Every event or experience is a chance to network. Enjoy getting to know people better. I’ve done some of my best networking (and fund-raising) at the grocery store or school sporting events.
10. Be confident. Networking asks you to display your strengths and executive-level presence even when you may not be feeling either. Today’s strangers or information sources can be tomorrow’s co-workers or bosses.