For many of us, the word "networking" conjures up scary images of clumps of nervous strangers in a hotel ballroom, sweat beading on their foreheads and their eyes wide with the look of deer caught in headlights as they awkwardly thrust business cards on each other while stammering out rote questions. Fun!
Bloggers are notorious for often being introverts who hide behind their computer while being less comfortable at the kind of extroverted glad-handing thought to be necessary for successful networking. Although social networking on our computers has made contact-building easier in that regard, there are some simple techniques for effective networking both online and off.
1. ABC - Always Build Contacts
You never know when you will need a network. Perhaps it will be when you are job hunting or need to find an expert on a topic or are hoping someone you know can tell you the secret of how to get on Oprah. Build your network before you need it and don't try to scramble to suddenly put one together when you need one yesterday./p>
2. Introduce Yourself
In person, if necessary, work up the nerve to introduce yourself to people. Most likely, they will be grateful you did. In an online social networking setting, don't just follow people and hope they will follow back or send invitations on LinkedIn with the generic connection request. Send an "@" message introducing yourself or customize the connection request with a brief message about how you know each other or how you share common networks.
3. Be Prepared
Have cards with your contact information and include your preferred methods of contact, whether it is phone, e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or your blog. If you are all over the interwebs, consider having a single URL where you collect all your contact information. It can be a static blog page or a service such as magnitize.com or flavors.me where you can collect all your links. If you are concerned about giving out your phone number, consider requesting a Google Voice number, which you can use as a customizable forwarding and screening service.
4. Be Interesting By Being Interested
Have some standard questions at the ready to ask people such as, "How do you know our hosts?" Or, "What brings you to this conference?" Follow up with questions about some of their hobbies or passions beyond work. People are more likely to remember you, not just because you shared your passion for tandem hang gliding or speed needlepoint, but because you enthusiastically inquired about and listened to theirs.
5. Follow Up
Probably the single biggest mistake people make in networking is not following up. When you get those cards, follow up quickly with a simple, "great to meet you, looking forward to keeping in touch" kind of message. If the person you are connecting with made a presentation, tell them it rocked or offer some thoughts on what you learned. When you are online re-tweet, like or comment on their content. Keep the relationship going by asking if you can offer help on a project or question. If you come across an article or link that might be useful, pass it along. Be of service before you need their help.
Don't fear networking by thinking about it as sleazy or obnoxious. Approach it with genuine curiosity about others and you'll build a rich network of contacts at least and at best make some friends along the way, too.
Chris Fralic at TechCrunch shares The Art of the [E-mail] Introduction: Top Ten Tips.
Hashim at Hip Hop Blogs offers anti-networking networking techniques in Everybody Got A Deal, I Did It Without One:
Some of the most brilliant and creative people I know are terrible self-promoters. I've seen some of them let their career in the entertainment industry lapse and stall because they reject the Ari Gold method of getting your name out there, by any obnoxious means necessary.
There's another way. I've been living the other way. I let my social proof do the talking and I focus on doing incredible work for my current employer and for myself.
If you're as allergic to networking as I am, I hope you embrace doing cool projects that get the attention of insiders, so your career in this biz can fly.
Liz Rizzo at Everyday Goddess describes her "Truly Meet One Person" Approach to Networking:
So if you are someone who dreads or hates networking and you find yourself in a room full of peeps, my suggestion is, step back and think: I only have to Truly Meet One Person. Perhaps that will make the evening seem much less intimidating.
Gil Pizano at the National Society for Hispanic Professionals Network has some advice if you think, "But I Don't Know How to Network with People!"
My first thought after his comment was “Of course I’m interested in the person I’m speaking with!” and I wanted to say that but I didn’t. What I did do was ask him why he wanted to get advice on how to network. He told me he wanted to get to know people and have people get to know him, but he felt uncomfortable going up to someone and introducing himself. I told him that’s a fair feeling to have if you’re not use to networking. The way to help get over that feeling is to simply start doing it. Going up to people and introducing yourself, but remember a few important points:
Master networker Keith Ferrazzi's blog is a great resource, such as this post "Why Hoarding Your Network Makes Everyone Less Successful -- Especially You!"
Failing to make introductions among your contacts is the biggest mistake I see people make as networkers. People try to run their networks like command and control economies, thinking they have the most to gain by remaining the one and only hub. What they’re really doing is limiting the flow of information, and therefore the value of their network to everyone in it – themselves included!
BlogHer CE Paula Gregorowicz writes: Networking -- It's Not Necessarily What You Think:
That's why the simplest rules are best. Be yourself and treat others as you'd like to be treated. There is great simplicity and wisdom in that. You wouldn't want someone spewing blather at you going on and on about some boring thing trying to hard sell you something, right? Well, then you know you can trust your own instinct and let it be your guide as you build relationships with others.
BlogHer Member Debbie Melnikoff offers Networking Tips for the Job Seeker:
It is no secret that the key to a successful job search today involves a much more proactive approach than it did 10 or 15 years ago given the fierce competition for fewer jobs. Job seekers can no longer hide behind their laptops and hope to land a job by merely applying to job boards and other ‘published’ job openings. It is well understood that it is the ‘hidden job market’ that comprises 80% of jobs filled each year. This is where the job seeker must focus his/her efforts. To tap into this market you must include networking in your job search marketing campaign.
And a Guy Kawasaki classic: The Art of Schmoozing
9. Ask for the return of favors. Good schmoozers give favors. Good schmoozers also return favors. However, great schmoozers ask for the return of favors. You may find this puzzling: Isn't it better to keep someone indebted to you? The answer is no, and this is because keeping someone indebted to you puts undue pressure on your relationship. Any decent person feels guilty and indebted. By asking for, and receiving, a return favor, you clear the decks, relieve the pressure, and set up for a whole new round of give and take. After a few rounds of give and take, you're best friends, and you have mastered the art of schmoozing.
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