Networking 101

“Networking 101”
by Michael Aaron Gallagher

Are you looking for an opportunity to meet new people, without the hassle of meeting new people?

Networking can provide you with career advancement opportunities and a host of new friends who share common interests. But before you go attending scheduled meetings, here are some tips to getting the most out of the networking process:

1. First, Begin With What You Already Have – Exhaust all your current connections and let them know what you are looking for. That means set an agenda to determine what you want to get out of the process and what you can provide to your new contacts. You may be surprised by the people your friends know.

2. Be Yourself – Many times people think they aren’t good at networking, because they either don’t know a lot of people, or they feel like networking is for extroverts. But the fact is, you don’t have to be outgoing to be good at networking. And sometimes knowing too many people, can actually become a hindrance to achieving your goals. After all, the more people you know, the more relationships you have to maintain, and the less quality time you invest in each of them.

3. Follow Every Lead – Once you have a list of potential people to talk to, invest your time in following every lead. You never know where a bunny trail can take you. It may not seem like the connection you’ve made is worth setting up an appointment with, but once you begin to discuss your agenda with them, they may provide you with information relevant to your search.

4. Prioritize Your Effort – Even though you should follow the leads you uncover, don’t spend too much time on building relationships with potential clients or business partners that don’t yield results. You want to have friends, but you have to recognize what friendships hold the most potential and are the most valuable to both parties.

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Look to Unlikely Sources – Your best connections will come from places, where you are doing what you love to do, and what you are good at doing.

6. Remember, in Networking, Your Reputation Almost Always Precedes You – Your reputation is the foundation of the networking process. If your new contact hasn’t heard of you already, they soon will from the person who referred you. If you are well respected and greatly admired, be patient. The referrals will soon follow.

7. Think Like a Politician – Good politicians have the ability to make everyone feel like they are the most important person in the room. Adopt a similar mindset in networking. Be open and courteous. Attract people by being friendly and helpful, and your list of friends will grow more quickly. The fewer enemies you make along the way, the more successful you will become, and the easier it will be for you to avoid the dark side of political wrangling.

8. Networking Takes Time –Too many professionals think networking is something that happens in a forced luncheon or a monthly coffee get-together. But the best networking happens when you build relationships. And good relationships take time to develop. Sure you may meet people quickly and find out that you could work together, but without a true working relationship the meeting wasn’t worth it.

Whether you are trying to expand your list of clients, or you want to meet professionals who share common goals, networking is a process that requires careful planning and follow through. Next time you attend a business luncheon, keep these 8 tips in mind, and you may just find yourself with a few extra business cards in your pocket.

“Networking 101”
Copyright © 2008 by Michael Aaron Gallagher

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