It has become increasingly important, especially in these economic times, to have a vital network of business associates, friends and family. Whether we need resources for ourselves, are trying to develop business or simply for a support group, networks are the key to our continued success. We need to begin building our networks before we need them. Just as we don’t wait until we are famished to begin thinking about dinner, we shouldn’t wait until we are in dire need of contacts to begin networking. Networking begins with making a genuine connection with another person.
Fortunately we have something in common with most people. It is finding that common ground that is important. It could be where we grew up, went to school or common interests like music, sports or theater. When we meet someone, it is critical to listen attentively to discern some commonality on which we can make a connection. The title of my upcoming book, CONNECTING: BEYOND THE NAME TAG emphasizes the importance of getting beyond reading someone’s name tag and really getting to know them and something unique about the other person. It is about making a definitive positive connection.
As we listen carefully and attentively to others, we will find out about their interests and passions. Once we have done that, we should explore these areas further and remember what they tell us about their areas of interest. For example, if someone mentions they love music, find out what type of music they like. If it is jazz, you might ask which type of jazz or which jazz artists they particularly enjoy. If you happen to share a particular interest, you can ask more specific questions like a certain CD or song. The important point is to establish a common ground with others, to make a real unique connection. It is useful to get past superficial conversation to get beyond the name tag. This is best accomplished by asking open ended rather than yes/no questions. It is preferable to ask, “What did you like about Hawaii” instead of “Did you like Hawaii?”
The key to success in this area is to be a focused, attentive listener. Additionally, it is important to remember what you hear and build upon what you have talked about in previous conversations. For example, if you learn that Sue’s son Bob has applied to colleges, you can ask her how Bob’s college search is progressing in subsequent conversations. People appreciate it when we pay attention to them and actually remember what they tell us.
When you find some common ground, try to build on it to develop some type of bond with others. You might find an article on college admissions (or jazz) and forward it to them. Be generous in providing information and ideas to others after you have determined the topics in which they are interested. Successful networking is much more about giving than receiving. In the research for my book, I found that generosity in giving referrals, ideas and information was one of the major keys to successful networking. It is also useful to get involved in whatever organization you join. Raise your profile in a group and people will remember you. It’s not so much who you know, but who knows you that is important. Social networking sites like LinkedIn, Plaxo and Facebook provide the opportunity to expand upon and enhance face to face interactions. The most useful form of networking is cross networking, or using a combination of various organizations and online networking sites to build your profile and make people aware of you and your capabilities. Closely related to this is the importance of follow up. Stay in touch with others, and do what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it.
NETWORKING BEGINS WITH MAKING A CONNECTION continued.....