New Year Networking

Dec 26th, 2010 | By | Category: abundance, application, Career advice, mentor, networking, new year, new year resolution, skills, strategy, tactics

Among the many New Year Resolutions you make this year improving your  networking and interpersonal skills should be near the top of the list. Developing  a strong social and professional network of friends and associates is essential to    achieving most of your career goals. Almost everything you want in the workplace  depends on other people. So the more people in your network, the better your  chances of success in almost all of your endeavors.

It does take some time and effort to network and keep up social and professional contacts, but with e-mail, text messaging, and almost free telephone service there are fewer excuses not o keep in touch. In my case, it seems like never know quite know what to say, or that most people don’t want to be bothered. Perhaps the trick is not to say too much, or too often, but what is the right level?

One of the hardest things for me to do is gage the right level of interaction with friends, acquaintances, and co-workers. Usually when I talk to a person on a regular basis the conversations ebbs and flows seeking the appropriate level, but when I haven’t seen someone for a while there is almost always an awkward period until the conversation syncs into a comfortable topic. When the communication is one sided, like e-mail or a letter, where there is no feedback, it is often difficult to sense the appropriate level of communication.

Perhaps I am too sensitive to what others say, and too naive in taking what I hear at face value. How many times have you been in someone else’s office when they get a call from a friend or associate? More often than not the person will make a remark to the effect, “I hate it when people call for no reason.” It makes me believe calling someone just to say hello may not be the best networking tactic. Also thinly veiled business calls, are often seem to be a nuisance if they are too frequent or nebulous. These networking tactics seems to spark just the opposite of the intended purpose to establish rapport.

The Internet has also ushered in ever expanding methods for communication. E-mail, You Tube, Facebook, etc, all have networking elements in them. E-mail is probably the most personal, especially when the message is sent to only one recipient. Group E-mails enable your message to reach more people, but are less personal in nature. Depending on the situation a group E-mails may be appropriate for a keeping a select group informed of a situation. Often when a relative is sick, someone close to them will set up an E-mail group to keep the other family members informed. This is my preference as it keeps everyone in the loop and with the same information. Having everyone on the same page is something that I find important in maintaining good personal relationships. You Tube and Facebook are less personal in that the information being shared is for a wider audience, and it is up to your contacts if they want to read it or not. Most people browse these social sites reading what ever happens to catch their interest.
In researching how to network effectively on the Web and in the bookstore, I found very little helpful information. Most have a blank statement to keep in touch, but not much help on how or what to say. I am very open to suggestions on how to network and what to say. I find it difficult to send an E-mail to a person I met at a tradeshow six months ago, when all we did was exchange pleasantries and business cards. It is even difficult to come up with something to say to people who I consider friends when I worked on projects with them. It seems once the common interest of the project is over, there is little to talk about. So how can one effectively network, if they think you have nothing to say?

There are several success gurus who advise us to copy from someone who is good at what we are trying to do. In the case of networking this may be thinking of the phone calls, E-mails etc. you get from people who are good at networking, and adapting their methods to your style. Easier said than done. These people work every hard and are continually integrating new techniques to improve their networking skills. Although I think it is a good idea to incorporate ideas you get from others into your skill set, I always seem to get caught when I just copy. So instead I analyzed the content of successful networkers. My conclusion is there are five elements to developing a friendship or networking resource. They are:

A shared experience. Before you contact someone, think about some experiences you have in common, for a co-worker it may be a project you worked on together, for the guy at the trade show, it may be the trade show and some of the presentations you attended together. Mention the experience in the beginning of your communication. This will help re-establish rapport.

Give a compliment. Do lay it on too thick or be disingenuous. Something as simple as “ I really enjoy talking with you, you seem to know a lot about our industry”

Let people talk about themselves. In conversation give the other person a chance to talk. Ask open ended questions that gives them something to respond to. The same technique may be applied to one-sided conversations. Ask open-ended questions that give the person a reason to respond.

Tell them what you think. Try to relate to a common interest or experience, perhaps you can say what you think of the latest big development in your industry. Try not to pick a controversial topic or be to over bearing with your view.

Give them some space Don’t dominate the conversation with your opinion and try to steer the other person to agree with you. Give them some space to express their own opinion. Don’t be judgmental or argue to convince them you are right Ask questions and leave room for the other person to give his view. Also respect their opinion even if it differs from yours.

These are the basic building blocks any friendship or relationship and they apply to networking. It may take some practice and perseverance but, in my opinion, effective networking skills pay larger dividends than any other skill investment.
If you have some networking tips, I would like to hear them.
Good luck
The PracticaL Mentor

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