Learning to Network

Hooking your mentor and other professionals.

So many of us already know the reasons why we want to network with other professionals. We know that we can find mentors, build referral relationships, gather professional references, and be considered for more jobs. However, many of us have no idea how to actually network! Networking is a big topic, and I do not pretend to give it justice in this format. However, I have some tips below that will help you start to build those networking muscles.

First, realize that networking is about the other person. Many of us think that networking is about letting someone know why they should trust us and letting them know we are a professional. However, networking seems to work the opposite way. People want to know that we understand who they are. It is only after we know who they are, and that we care about them, that they begin to care about us.

Second, realize that networking is about ongoing relationship building and putting in the time. Referrals and relationships do not happen overnight. We need to develop strategies that work with our personality that keep the person thinking about us and how we can help them. It is normal for it to take some time, and some trial and error to build strong, valuable relationships.

Third, networking does not come naturally to most people. Even the most extroverted and gregarious of us can make major mistakes in the process. In fact, sometimes those who are most outgoing, seek the least help, and therefore make the most common mistakes.

With these three important points in mind here are some practical tips for your next networding opportunity:

1. Make the conversation about them, ask questions about what they need, and find out what they are looking for.

2. Get that contact information!

3. Don't be afraid to follow-up. Send a note, an article of interest, or some cookies, it makes them feel special.

4. Focus on how you can help them with their needs.

There are so many strategies for networking, it can get overwhelming. Concentrate on these few simple strategies and we will revisit this topic in a couple of months (if you want to hear more).

Action step: Spend an hour a week for the next month practicing these skills.