By Donna Fisher
Professional Networking for Dummies
The key to networking well is choosing interdependence over isolation and realizing the power of cooperation over competition—it links people and information to one another for the mutual benefit of everyone involved.
One of the reasons networking has gotten a bad reputation is that many people are selling in the name of networking, but those who are truly masterful at networking do so in a very quiet, yet powerful manner. These people know the power of grace and respect.
They’ve developed their personal power and know how to connect with people to share their power. You have that personal power within you, and your network is unlimited.
The following “People Power Principles” show you how to be a source of power for yourself and others.
1. The Power of Giving
The “boomerang effect” of giving is the guarantee of networking. A boomerang always comes back because that is the how the instrument is designed. Likewise, what you give always comes back in some form because that is how the law of giving works.
However, the only way the boomerang can return is if someone first takes action and throws the boomerang. Giving is a powerful way to activate your network, because human nature inherently provides the desire to respond in kind. Put your “giving power” into action. Pass along support and information to others. Then all you have to do is watch for that boomerang and catch it on its return.
- In what ways could I be more giving and supportive?
- In which personal relationships could I be more giving?
- In which professional relationships could I be more giving?
- Who will I call and ask, “What do you need?” and “How can I help?”
2. The Power of Interdependence
Make a powerful and mature shift from the mental state of “I can do this on my own” to “I honor the power and results that are accomplished from working effectively with others.”
Expand your thinking beyond yourself—the “I can do it on my own” mentality limits your outreach and effectiveness as a networker. Many of us need to retrain ourselves to think positively about interdependence.
Think of yourself as a multidimensional entity of resources and contacts. Who you are consists of all of your life experiences and the people who influence who you are as a person. You are larger than what you see in your mirror. You are a culmination of connections that provide an unlimited source of knowledge and opportunities.
Send Notes Frequently That Say:
- Thanks for your support.
- Thanks for your friendship.
- Thanks for the referral.
- Thanks for the ideas you shared with me.
- Thanks for the words of encouragement.
- Thanks for the opportunity to learn more about your business.
- Thanks for the opportunity to do business with you.
- Thanks for taking the time to …
3. The Power of Quality Connections
Everyone has a vast and powerful network. However, for some people the connections have become weak and rusty from neglect. Clean up those communication connections so that you can network with all the people in your life in an easy, natural, and consistent manner.
Networking is as simple as friendship and as complex as matchmaking. It is about people being there for one another. People are much more likely to be “people loyal” than they are to be brand loyal, and your network will naturally grow and blossom as you strengthen and nurture your relationships. Never underestimate the power of your contacts!
4. The Power of Staying in Touch
Staying in touch with people is what keeps your relationships close and connected. All of us at times are so busy that even though we think of giving someone a call, we don’t follow through.
Make a point to call people to stay in touch and reconnect. Focus on calling at least one person a week to wish them well or see how they’re doing. Call someone you have not talked with in a long time and let them know you are thinking of them. Networking simply happens through conversation, yet someone has to be willing to reach out and initiate the conversation.
5. The Power of Small Talk
Small talk is a style of conversation that allows people to get to know one another in a nonthreatening manner. Small talk is not insignificant chit-chat.
It is the exploratory stage in conversation that leads to discovering commonalities and opportunities—and conversation is where networking happens. Learning to approach people with confidence is a professional skill. It is not about making people talk or cornering people on elevators, but about your ability to open the door to conversation with the people right around you.
When you focus on putting people at ease and show an interest in learning more about others, small talk leads to connection, trust, and rapport. Have you ever noticed yourself in a conversation that seems to be going nowhere? Then all of a sudden you find that you have something in common with the other person and the conversation takes off.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What steps am I willing to take to expand my comfort zone?
- In what settings am I willing to take the initiative to approach new people?
- Whom do I know who is good at generating conversations with new people?
- What do I notice about this person that can be helpful?