Common wisdom dictates that there are six degrees of separation between you and anyone on the planet. According to my father, however: “There aren’t six degrees of separation, there are two; you just have to think hard enough.”
Like my father, I’m a connector, and would agree that regardless of how many people it takes to make a connection, no one is too far removed. More so, it can be a great joy to facilitate those connections for people in your network; being a connector will undoubtedly help advance your career, and make you more successful in your job search.
I’ve also learned, thought, that just because something comes naturally to me, it doesn’t for others… especially networking. So here are 16 quick, immediate tips to help you become a better networker, now:
Networking Starts with Your Current Contacts
Networking doesn’t necessarily mean actively pursuing making new relationships. Cultivate those you have already and invest in those relationships first.
Even if You “Don’t Need to Network,” You Do
You never know when you’ll need someone to help connect you (not always professionally). It’s improper to ask someone for help when you’ve not spoken to him/her in ages, but now are doing so simply to ask for something. Therefore, refer back to tip #1.
Think of Networking as a Puzzle You’re Piecing Together
What need does someone else have and how can you use your resources to fill that gap? Who among your network would benefit from knowing another, and be grateful for the connection?
Don’t Throw Your Cards Around
We all know the person who shoves his/her business card down your throat immediately. It’s a turnoff, and not a very polite way to engage a new contact. Offer your business card after having a conversation — and asking for the other person’s first.
Remember Their Rolodex
The power of networking is the people your contacts know, not always your contact directly. Keep that in mind as you help guide people towards how to help connect you.
Let people know how and when you’ll contact them (and then do it). Encourage those you connect to do the same, keeping your reputation as a facilitator of relationships intact.
Ask Questions That Are Deeper Than, “What Do You Do?”
When possible, begin conversations with questions about someone personally, not necessarily their profession. Get to know them and attempt to find commonalities. They will tend to remember those conversations best.
Create “Reconnect” Files
In your calendar, create files on monthly rotation with lists of people you’ve met and with whom you want to keep in touch. For contacts that have more immediate, obvious value (networking partners), create individual monthly reconnect files to spark you to reach out to them in the future. No need to reach out every month, but seeing their name (relevancy) is half the battle.
Reach out when you have an interesting article to share, want to see how they’re doing, or ask about their latest trip, etc. Let people know you’ll stay in touch every month or so, then do it!
Remember Birthdays (and the Small Stuff)!
If your contact has an important meeting or proposal, remember and contact him/her to wish him/her luck and ask how he/she did. If it would be important to you, it’s likely important to him/her and will be meaningful for you to remember.
Be Specific When Describing Your Ideal Targets
This specificity can be related to job leads, sales leads, dating interests, or otherwise. “Anybody” means nobody, so get specific with your connection goals.
Ask Them What They Need
Then try to provide it by connecting them with someone you know and trust. Serving the needs of others is the single best way to build your network.
Give First — Without Expectation of Something in Return
It tends to be obvious when you give from a genuine place, rather than from a place of expecting something in return. Those who give, get, but don’t do so with immediate expectation.
Link to new and old connections, go through their contacts, and ask for introductions. Focus on alumni from your school, greek organizations, service clubs and volunteer organizations.
At a Networking Event, Everyone Is There to Meet New People
Going alone and walking up to strangers is the point. Everyone has some apprehension. Take the initiative, no matter how introverted you think you may be. By conquering your comfort zones, you will be the person most remembered.
Ask, “Why Should They Care?”
Do you know how to describe yourself or your business in one sentence that demonstrates some value to the listener, not couched in industry-speak? Or, can you explain it so that they might be interested in continuing the conversation? Example: I help people to ________.
Listen More Than You Talk!
People love to talk about themselves, and you can’t learn about the other person if you’re doing all of the talking.
If networking intimidates you — or you think you’re all set and don’t need to do it to begin with! — think again. Refer back to these tips the next time you’re looking for a reference for a personal or business service, a job lead, a new hire, or any number of other things a strong network can provide.
No one is immune from networking. Embrace the opportunity. Find the fun in the process. Strive be one of the two connections between you… and anyone else.
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at the YEC!
About the Author: Darrah Brustein is the co-founder of Equitable Payments, a merchant services brokerage, and founder of Atlanta Under 40, a monthly networking event for young professionals. Darrah recently authored Finance Whiz Kids, a series of kids book that teach the basics of financial education. Follow Darrah on Twitter!
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.
Image courtesy of mindthis.ca… thank you!