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Tips to Become a Great Networker

Last week, I received a phone call from a young man who could have written a blog post on "What Not To Do During a Networking Conversation". He started the call with "Hey, how ya doing Sandra? Joe said I should call you. I am looking to get some advice about my business and I thought you could help because I think we work in the same industry." When I asked the caller what Joe’s last name was, he did not remember. When I asked him what business he was in, he replied with an industry I have not been in for 10 years. When I asked him how I could help he wasn't really sure - he simply repeated that Joe said I would be a good contact.

Here is what I learned about the caller based on the way he approached our conversation:

  • When the caller spoke to my former colleague Joe, he was more interested in getting the name of a new contact than really understanding who Joe was.
  • The caller took no time to research my background or the company I work for. If he had done so he would have known I had not been in the same business as him in over 10 years.
  • The caller did not know what he wanted to get out of the call. He was clearly dialing phone numbers without a strategy. The caller was overly familiar “Hey, how ya doing?” is not a good way to start a networking conversation with someone you do not know.
  • Lastly, the caller was only thinking about himself. He did not ask me if this was a good time to chat – he just jumped in with his agenda with no regard for what was going on with my schedule.

This example is not a one-time occurrence. People pick up the phone to network without preparing all of the time. They simply hope that the person on the other end will know the answer to their plea for help ... even when they don’t know what they need help with.

Networking is not easy, but it is necessary so invest some time, energy and maybe even money into learning how to network successfully.  If you cannot afford to take a course consider reading a book on the subject, research networking tips online, or speak to people you know that are already successfully networking.

Below are some tips for Professional Networking:

  • Continue to look for ways to build your network by helping other people.
  • Go to work events and challenge yourself to meet new people.
  • Get to know the “influencers” in the company you work for, or the associations you are a part of.
  • Join relevant organizations and gain access to their membership.
  • Establish/maintain your online profiles.
  • Attend and/or speak at conferences and seminars.
  • Volunteer within your professional or personal community.
  • Record the names of everyone you know and take the time to keep in touch.
  • Join networking groups.
  • Become a member of industry associations, business networking groups, rotary clubs, and school alumni.
  • Keep in touch with people you have previously worked with (many companies have "former employee alumni").
  • Help people along the way. The individual who is great at networking is always willing to give out more information than they will ever receive.
  • Networking should be an ongoing process, not just when you want information and/or help.

I did take pity on my caller because I believe people get points for putting themselves out there, but I could have been more helpful if he had taken the time to prepare for the call and understand what it was he was hoping to accomplish by connecting with me.