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Networking: 5 Friendly Reminders for All of Us

Screen Shot 2017-10-14 at 9.21.48 AMI’m about to write a post about one of the most (over?) discussed business topics of the 21st century: networking. Before you yawn, I’m posting about this topic because the unwritten rules of networking seem to be violated a lot lately. So, I wanted to lay down 5 friendly reminders for all of us (myself included) on how to network like rock star professionals that we should be, rather than amateurs.

A lot of what I’m covering below came from many books and thought leaders on this topic – these aren’t my original ideas. People like Hazel Walker, Dr. Ivan Misner, (and their book, Business, Networking and Sex), and several other books (Harvey McKay’s Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty, Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone, etc. are where I attempted to pick up and implement many if not all of these principles. These are not new and not mine, but I really try hard to adhere to them.

  1. Your network is your net worth - Social capital is like financial capital, but a little different, in that more isn’t necessarily better. Unlike money, a network is a living, breathing thing. You have to treat it as such. Feed it. Nurture it. If you see something of interest to a friend, send a quick note and the link online to an article and write, “Thought of you when I saw this – hope you are well!” Give–to those especially who have earned it. It’s about relationships first, which leads me to my next point…
  2. Always build the relationship first - My biggest pet peeve of late with LinkedIn is that people try to connect, then automatically send a hard press sell on their wares before we even get to know each other. You need to build the relationship FIRST, then and only then can you start selling. And this goes double for women. We want a relationship FIRST. If you start selling out of the gate, the channel is muted automatically. Let me connect to you if you offer and we’ve never met. If I like your jam, then I’ll connect and watch your posts for a while, then maybe we can chat. I need a digital handshake of your online presence before you get to sell me anything directly. Also, please stop the group spammy LinkedIn messages. If you can’t take the time to send me a direct personal message about whatever it is that you’re selling, then it really can’t be that important.
  3. Givers gain - give more than you receive. Proof in point: here below is my written recommendations section from my personal LinkedIn profile–I’m walking the talk here, so you all can keep me honest. Try to give at least 2-4 times more than you receive. Below, I’m really close to 5 times on recommendations. That’s the goal I try and set for myself. On the other hand, I can’t give arbitrarily. You have to make sure you have #2 in place first, and they have to do good work – you can’t just start recommending people you don’t know and haven’t worked with. That, too, is inauthentic. Give as it is earned, otherwise, your giving becomes meaningless.

4. Always play the connection game in your brain - I really don’t do as many one on ones anymore, but when I do meet new people to my network and chat with them, I’m always playing the connection game in my brain. As they talk, I go through my virtual brain Rolodex to check if they know people in my network who share a passion. If not, and if they’d like to be connected, I make the connection. I personally believe that those who share a common passion are often times better to know each other than not. A way that author and coach Jenny Blake of Pivot rolls this way is something she calls the 20/20 or a 30/30, where if she is meeting someone one on one, she’ll start with the other party and discuss for 20-30 minutes one thing they are working on, then she offers insight, then they switch. I like this because it sets the giving playground equally.

5. If you called the meeting, own it - That means, NEVER be the person to cancel the meeting if you called it in the first place–unless the world is literally falling apart. Those who are in demand for one on ones are really, REALLY busy in some cases, and if they said yes to you the first time, you may never get a second chance if you cancel. And, savvy, busy professionals always keep a mental list of who dissed them, as they are good guardians of the one item we never get back: our time. This also means that if you asked someone else to coffee or lunch – you at least offer to pay.

There. Again, not rocket science, not new, and not revolutionary. These 5 principles are just what I try to live by, and wanted to share with all of us, myself included, as articulated friendly reminders.

Happy pro-networking!

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