The Net Worth of Networking: Tips and Tactics
Networking is a word that often generates anxiety and other negative emotions but it need not be that way. Like any other activity or project one must understand what needs to be done and devise a plan. One of my best friends from law school is a master networker…his Rolodex of contacts is massive and full of talent. I have learned a lot from watching and listening to him. Thanks much Isaiah!
Tonight I am returning home from a student-alumni networking event at UNCG. I have participated in several of these events and find them to be quite rewarding. At some of these events alumni are asked to share some tips and tactics with students and so here are my meager contributions to the tip jar:
Be intentional in your networking. Set a plan: who do you want to meet? What type of contacts are you seeking and for what purpose(s)? What is the theme of the event (job fair, cocktail party, alumni mixer, Board luncheon, career continuing education event, etc)? Do you have your elevator speech prepared and is it appropriate for the event? If you run out of time and do not get to finish a convo with a contact do not be afraid to schedule a day and time to follow-up.
Bring business cards. Digital and online contact is great but there is something uniquely helpful about having an actual card in one’s hand.
Collect and organize business cards. Possible means of organizing your contacts beyond alphabetical order include career field or occupation, geographical, date of introduction to the contact, and common connections or affiliations (alumni of certain school, former co-workers, natives of same hometown, etc.). For a small sum you can purchase plastic sheets that will allow you to keep your business card collection in a three-ring binder.
Take notes. Shortly after meeting someone new make some notes about him or her on the business card you were given. If you have no card create a new contact in whatever digital (Hotmail, Gmail, etc) or other database you maintain for contacts. Notes should be made of unique or distinct facts and features that will help you recall the contact for future reference.
Followup. Send a short message to thr new contact within a week just to refresh their recollection of you and to begin an ongoing”conversation”. LinkedIn is a great way to do this. Periodically schedule meetings or meet-ups with your key contacts.
Share content. When you run across articles, Weblinks, and other info relevant to some of your contacts take a few moments and pass it along. It is another point of contact and can help establish you as a relative expert or at least follower in a certain field.
Share contacts. This is where you can provide some of the “give” in your give-and-take relationship. If your contact is seeking a job, reference, information, or other resources you can give the contact the contact info of another one of your contacts. Be judicious here. Assuming you have worked to establish your contacts you want to be sure to vet persons with whom you share the contacts’ info. My friend Isaiah is a master of this.
Share more. Have extra tickets to a sporting event, concert, seminar, etc? Invite a contact. If a contact has ties to a charity or non-profit organization you may consider making a gift if appropriate. Use your creativity to find ways to give to your key contacts.
Ask for returns. If you are in need of something and you believe a contact can help you make the “ask”. Many people are willing to help; they just need to be asked and asked appropriately. Be mindful of the timing of your request and that it does not overreach the nature and relative depth of your relationship with the contact. If you have only known the contact for two months and have had limited contact this may not be the right time to ask to use the contact’s box seat tickets to an NFL game.
Review, reorganize, and revise your contacts. People move, change their contact info, switch career fields and jobs, gain or shed interests, undertake and finish endeavors, etc. Make the changes to the info you have for your contacts and note new opportunities for connection. Try to review your contacts at least once per year. This could be a good weekend or rainy day activity.
Leave them wanting more and wanting to hear from you again. If you have a Blog, newsletter, or other means of recurring communication add your contact to your distribution list. (NOTE: if you have not already done so be sure to subscribe to the Law and Life Blog today by typing your email address in the “Follow Blog Via Email” at the top right of this page). Give value whether it be content or resources or even other contacts. This value helps build your credibility with your contacts and can lead to connections to additional contacts.
In the end networking is about building relationships. One need not be a full-time extrovert to be an effective networker. Consider the purposes for your networking endeavors, set a plan, and give it a try. You may be pleasantly surprised at the results. Happy networking!
- Posted in: Life Lessons