By Sheri Kendall-duPont, COLL100 Faculty at American Public University
Dale Carnegie said it best, “greet everyone you meet and show an interest in them. Remember the things that are important to them.” This is great advice and a good way to approach networking, but you must go one step further: follow up.
Networking reaches far beyond the mere exchange of business cards and polite smiles. With a well-defined strategy, a strong network can be built in four easy steps.
- Leave the House. How many new people have you met in your living room? Contacts are made in the gym, at music venues, places of worship, while volunteering, at community events, etc. Do what you love and the contacts will develop. When you develop relationships with people who are interested in the same activities as you—they want to help. They are excited that you have a common interest and are invested in helping you to make contacts. You never know whom they workout with, where they volunteer, or what their neighbors do for a living.
- Listen. As you are getting to know people, make sure you are listening to the things that are of interest to them. What are their hobbies? What are they working on? What are their aspirations? Listen and learn what is of interest to them.
- Share. Always be prepared to tell your story and make it interesting. People want to know who you are, what drives you to do what you do, and the successes you have created. Spend time developing your story and practice, practice, practice. Ultimately, your story should be clear, concise, and completed in less than one minute.
- Follow Up. Consider this scenario: One of your new contacts shared with you their desire to run a marathon, but they were unsure of where or how to begin. This was just a comment said in passing, but you picked up on how serious this goal was. You recall that while you were volunteering at a local food bank you met a fellow volunteer who is a coach who is starting a business coaching new runners in marathon training. You send an email to the coach. What does this introduction do for you? You are now at the top of both contacts list for new projects and job openings.
Networking isn’t rocket science. It is simply the act of developing mutually beneficial relationships and maintaining those relationships throughout your career. Even after you have landed your dream job, you must maintain your network for career growth; practice these steps at least quarterly and your career will soar.
About the Author
Sheri Kendall-duPont is a faculty member at American Public University. She found her passion for career development in 1999 when she was asked to teach 65 ex-felons how to find meaningful work. For 14 years, she has shared her passion and knowledge of non-traditional job search and career development strategies.
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