The Art of Networking

Are you sick and tired of hearing about networking? It seems our daily newspapers, weekly journals and monthly trade magazines include an article about networking in every issue now. Whether the story is about finding a job in these challenging economic times or about someone’s success in business or on the stage of life, networking and relationships are stressed as being increasingly important.    

However, do we practice the “art of networking” when we attend business events and social functions?   

The “art of networking” can be described as the hidden gem of connecting with finesse. Yes, we continually hear about making the right connections with people of influence who can be great mentors, resources and sponsors.  However, there are certain elements of connection which are definitely worth noting that go a long way in expanding your network and making it more effective. I’ve provided a few to help add finesse to basic networking skills:

Give First. In business and in life, we all want and need things. Your chances of receiving improve greatly when you give first. Let me explain.  Let’s say you meet a prominent business person who you think can help your career. Instead of immediately asking for her help after meeting, find out what is meaningful and important to her. Learn about the things that interest her. You do this by really listening to her — not just by hearing words she says. Listen with your ears, eyes and heart to understand what is being communicated. See if there is something you can do to help her in some way. This is how you give first.

By giving first you begin to establish a relationship of trust. You are showing the other person you care about her without the expectation that she “owes you.” That will just negate your giving gesture.    

Demonstrate Good Manners. Yes, our moms were right, and every Mother’s Day we have another opportunity to thank them and/or think about them for lessons they taught us. Even as our work environments today might be more casual than in years past, good manners are just as important to your success. Whether in face-to-face situations or in online communications, demonstrating good manners elevates others’ perceptions about you.

Remember the phrase, “If you don’t have something nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” We heard this repeatedly as children. Yet, with technology and the transparency of the internet and social media, many have totally forgotten about it. When you say something mean in public or post something derogatory online, that is a reflection on you. This also gives others a perception of your behavior which could definitely be unflattering to your reputation.

Follow Up. Can you think of a time when you’ve met someone who says they’d like to follow up and meet for coffee or lunch? Even better, they ask if you’d prefer they call or email you to set up a date and time to get together, and you never hear from them again?  When you meet someone and convey your interest in getting together later, remember to follow up. This is one of the easiest ways to gain credibility, as it demonstrates how well you take action on your words. Writing it down can help immensely in remembering to do what you say you’re going to do.I think it’s pretty amazing how some of the behavioral elements of the “art of networking” resemble great leadership. Wouldn’t you agree?

Laura Morales, president of Energize Your Outlook, is a high-energy motivational speaker, trainer, communications coach and author. For more information, please visit www.energizeyouroutlook.com.
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