Chances are good that you’ve been on the receiving end of a bad attempt at networking at least once. It may have been the individual at a social event who made their way around the room soliciting an unwanted service without even asking if you needed or wanted it. It may have been a distant relative messaging you out of the blue on social media to ask if you want to sell, or better yet join, their network marketing business, and then quickly disappearing the moment you say ‘no thanks’. Or it could be an acquaintance you haven’t spoken to since high school, calling you unexpectedly to ask if you can get them a job at your place of employment.
And while you might cringe thinking about these examples or even a real experience that you’ve had, chances are also good that more than once you’ve been the one that made someone else cringe (confession: I know that I’ve been guilty before).
While networking is a necessity in the business world, there is an art form to networking effectively in a manner which produces positive results for all parties involved and avoids creating bad memories and experiences. This is the topic of the book The Network Effect* by Tony Newton and Judith Perie. While there are perhaps dozens and dozens of things to consider when it comes to networking, Tony and Judith highlight some key points that are worth reflecting upon, including:
- Networking is about connecting with others, not about simply mass-unloading your business cards and then praying that someone will call you. Your success in both the personal and professional realms is more likely to stem from friendships and connections you’ve built up over time as opposed to relative strangers you’ve randomly solicited.
- Building upon the first point, you need to have a network already built and in place before you need it. If you suddenly find yourself unemployed, for example, you’re more likely to find a new job quickly from your existing network who already knows you than from random employers that you start messaging in a panic.
- Cast a wide net when networking. Don’t simply look for connections for your business, but rather make connections that can be fruitful in the personal and leisure realms as well (I.e., people who have the same hobbies and interests as you).
- You never know where a connection may lead. Just because you connected over a discussion about one particular business idea doesn’t mean it won’t become a door leading to other ventures, opportunities, and people.
- MEMORIZE NAMES (emphasize placed because this is a common pitfall).
- Show genuine interest in the lives of others. Few things build a relationship faster and more effectively than being able to recall facts that someone told you about their lives and then later asking them how those facts have played out over time (i.e., their family, their hobbies, or their business ventures).
- Always thank people for their time, recommendations, and leads. It shows that you care, and they will appreciate knowing that they created value for you. This will aid in developing a productive, long-term relationship with them.
- Contacting someone you haven’t spoken to in years is a bad move when you are doing so simply to ask them for something, but it is great when you are simply rekindling the relationship or connection. Never be afraid to do this.
- Connecting effectively (and building relationships in general) includes showing others that you value them.
- Networking improves with practice.
- Be authentic, not fake.
On Friday May 5th, PEAK will be hosting its next PEAK Around Town Event at El Toro Mexican Grill at the Kingsport Town Center at 6 PM. When you attend, don’t simply look at new faces as business opportunities whom to force your goods and services upon. Instead, make genuine connections and then make an effort to stay in touch with these individuals. Don’t network for a “quick win”. Network to build fruitful, long-term relationships.
*Disclaimer: The author of this article is not affiliated with this book or its authors, and received no compensation for its promotion within this article.
Jeremiah Clark, M.A., is a healthcare IT consultant with six Epic Systems certifications. He is also
a partner at Appalachian Digital, a local web development agency, and a founding partner of
MHQC LLC Real Estate Development. He and his wife Erin are natives of Kingsport, TN.