How to Master the Art of Professional Networking
You don’t need to be charismatic in order to be good at professional networking. I am a talker, so I don’t find being sociable all that hard. However, good talkers do not necessarily make good networkers. Becoming a good networker requires you to learn how to relate to people in a way that gives them a positive impression of you.
I discovered early on in my professional life that people in positions of power like to talk about themselves. So, the best strategy when speaking to someone who is senior to you is to ask questions that allow them to do so. But you don’t want to be aggressive, as if you had them under interrogation. A nice, easy, casual flow of conversation in which one question naturally leads to another will usually suffice.
The same advice works if you’re among peers—say, a group of entrepreneurs or independent service professionals. The thing to remember is to show genuine interest in the person. Doing so is sure to make an indelible impression on them, and will make your efforts to follow up easier.
Sending a brief email the next day is a good way to follow up. Finding them on LinkedIn is also useful. A recent article in Forbes magazine offers these and other guidelines as effective ways of networking. The advice includes:
- Setting up a one-to-one meeting
- Remembering small stuff like birthdays
- Using the power of your connection to create opportunities
- Giving first, and expecting nothing in return
The full article can be read here. But I want to say a little more about the last piece of advice. Giving first is a good way of showing that you are a sincere and generous person, which is a trait that is looked on favorably by most people.
Something else I’d thought I’d mention is pro-active networking. I have made it a habit of connecting the interesting and successful people I know with one another. If I meet someone new and think they would hit it off with someone I already know or believe that the two persons can help each other, I make it a point to introduce them. This can put you at the center of multiple networks, and it can be an advantage when you undertake your own projects.
About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.