Business Productivity: Four Productive Networking Tips

“It isn’t just what you know, and it isn’t just who you know. It’s actually who you know, who knows you, and what you do for a living.” — Bob Burg, American business writer

“Your power is almost directly proportional to the thickness of your Rolodex, and the time you spend maintaining it. Put bluntly, the most potent people I’ve known have been the best networkers — they ‘know everybody from everywhere’ and have just been out to lunch with most of them.” — Tom Peters, American business writer

“The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.” — Keith Ferrazzi, American marketing consultant and author

Make no mistake: who you are and what you know, and the facility and flair with which you wield both your talent and knowledge, are key contributors to your success in the workplace. But the people you know can also be important—so to truly stay ahead of the game, you also need to build your networking skills.

Now, given the recent advent of online social networks like Twitter and Facebook, “networking” can be a loaded term. But let’s leave the frivolity aside, and look at the subject from a purely practical perspective. As defined here, networking is the art of cultivating productive personal relationships for business reasons. The tools you use to network can vary widely. They may in fact include specialized social networks like LinkedIn, but many people do just fine with their Rolodexes, business cards, and email. However you do it, no matter the venue, networking means reaching out to other people and making connections that benefit all involved.

Here are four simple tips to help you network in the most productive way possible.

Be Gregarious
For networking to work at all, you can’t be a shrinking violet…so if you’re shy, you need to get over it. You have to make a sincere effort to present yourself as someone worth networking with in the first place. So jump right in there and be friendly. You don’t have to be someone you aren’t—in fact, you should be as genuinely you as possible—but don’t hesitate to introduce yourself to new people, hand out business cards, ask germane questions, and listen to what others have to say. Know what your goals are, and don’t hesitate to articulate them. Otherwise: smile, be outgoing and confident, and pretend there’s no such thing as rejection.

Become Active in a Professional Organization
Find a local chapter of a trade group for professionals in your field, and join it. In fact, join more than one, if you can. Attend meetings regularly, and don’t be a wallflower: circulate, get to know people, and get your name out there. Volunteer for committees and events, and run for offices. Attend the conventions, workshops, and seminars. As long as you keep your ultimate goals in mind, any investments in time and dues will be more than paid for by the relationships you establish. Among other things, membership in a professional organization can help you:

• Keep abreast of current affairs within your field
• Cross-fertilize your business ideas with new ones
• Find new employees
• Find a job when you’re looking
• Identify guest speakers
• Locate joint venture partners
• Add to your professional development

Nurture Your Contacts

Always follow up with the people you meet, especially when you’ve promised them something. Not only does this ensure a good impression, it helps build the relationship into something more than a simple handshake and smile. Let them know you enjoyed meeting them, and invite them to get together with you every once in a while to talk and share ideas.

Don’t let that initial follow-up be the end of it, either. At the very least, touch bases every once in a while, and don’t be afraid to send someone an article or website link you think they may be interested in. If you have a habit of letting people slip out of contact, set up a tickler file to remind you to get back in touch with them. Just be sure you do it individually; nothing will kill a sense of personal connection as quickly as an email fired off to dozens of people at once.

Become a Powerful Resource in Your Own Right
An excellent way to draw new contacts to you with a minimum of effort, and to maximize the contacts you have, is to be a strong networking resource. Be helpful and generous, always ready to lend a hand with a name, organizational contact, idea or suggestion. The more you help people, and the more graciously you do so, the more contacts you’ll end up with—and thus, the bigger and more useful your network will be.

Final Thoughts
Needless to say, there’s more to productive networking than I’ve outlined here, but you can’t go wrong if you keep these pointers in mind. And let me re-emphasize a point made earlier in this article: don’t try to be something you aren’t, except insofar as it’s necessary in order to come out of your shell (assuming that it is necessary). You’re most interesting to people if you seem genuine, and the easiest way to seem genuine is to just be you.

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Comments

  1. When it comes to networking, take on the abundance mindset. It’s almost impossible to over-generous. The more value provide for your contacts, the stronger your network will be.

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