During my corporate intern seminars, I would often get questions from international students about the various ways Americans network. They are right, it is confusing. That was my inspiration to write a book on networking.
There are a lot of networking books on the market; however, I couldn’t find one that identified the various ways networking is approached or achieved. This can range from an open mingling atmosphere and structured networking venues to various leads’ clubs or referral groups. Then the book advances to how to network effectively by overcoming awkwardness and/or shyness.
I continued developing content that also offered strategies ranging from effectively walking into a room and engaging in conversation to follow-up methods. Most importantly, the book offers strategies on how to be a “people connector”. Networking is all about making connections and helping others in the process! Chapters are identified as “Paths”.
Path #1: After-Hours Social Prospecting
Networking is all about prospecting. A prospector pans for gold until one day he finally discovers gold among all the small rocks and debris. This is how networking works. You are prospecting for your networking nuggets of gold. These nuggets can come in the form of connecting people, receiving helpful information, or generating a business lead. To make the process work, you must keep panning and occasionally change venues (streams).
While familiar in-person and online streams consistently fill your needs, be open to stumbling onto different venue opportunities. Where would we be today if the miners had given up and stopped panning after each disappointment and didn’t change streams? Keep panning! There are many variables to the prospecting process, whether internal or external, that allow you to find new opportunities.
Path #2: Master the Skill of Mingling
Mingling is made easy by simply using a three-step process that helps you confidently mix and mingle at various functions. For example, can you comfortably walk into a room and confidently engage in conversation? Can you juggle a handshake, hors d’oeuvres, and beverage all in one smooth move? It’s the prerequisite to networking!
If mingle-phobia (or awkwardness) is your biggest barrier, the best way to accomplish this is with a strategy. Take the awkwardness out of attending networking events by engaging in a model that achieves your goals. This chapter describes a three-step strategy: (1) approach, (2) engage, (3) depart. It is all about looking and feeling confident, making yourself known, and being memorable in a positive way.
Path 3: Networking as a Career Management Tool
Thinking of networking as a career management tool will get you in the right mindset. Networking is like trying to cultivate a flower garden. You don’t just plant the seeds and hope for all of them to sprout and grow on their own. That’s what weeds do!
Instead, you create the conditions for their growth and take pleasure in watching them blossom. Then you continue to nurture them. Just as there is no such thing as one generic flower, there is no such thing as one generic network or networker. By learning how to focus your networking efforts, identify different personal styles of networking, and handle those “pet peeve” moments, you will advance your networking confidence and career.
Path #4: Pursue Online Options Intelligently
As you venture into the social media world, embracing the importance of your online reputation is paramount. Numerous online platform options can put you in the right circle of contacts. Select wisely!
Social media is all about communicating in the written word. Therefore, do not underestimate the power of first impression “grammar.” Social media is powerful because it can open the door to real-life encounters or accomplish things when distance is the barrier.
Learn everything about your social media options and then select the ones that make the most sense for you. Then, learn how to use them effectively and protect your reputation in the process. Your social media profile is key! It’s your online identity and gives the visitor an overview of your persona, experience, and background. Although Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter were the initial “go-to” platforms, many others have and continue to emerge.
Path #5: How to Start a Networking Group or Event
Can’t find what you are looking for? Then create your unique networking group or event. Networking venues (in person or online) do not just happen. They are planned by dedicated and passionate people.
The pros highlighted in this chapter save you valuable time by sharing the strategies they used when they first started. History is the best lesson! Then readapt with today’s trends and create your networking web.
Begin with YOU!
Start by establishing a comfort zone with networking. Then, learn the strategies for ensuring successful interactions at networking events. Finally, realize that it is not just about you, it’s about connecting people and designing a networking model or strategy that achieves your goals. The person you help will remember your efforts and eventually help you. This is how networking truly works! No matter how much time goes by, you pull people forward when the opportunity presents itself. You never forget the people who helped you, and you always keep them in mind for opportunities. It is about paying it forward.
The Art of Professional Connections: Success Strategies for Networking in Person and Online offers proven strategies to make your experience a win-win.
This book acknowledges that there are many different personal styles of networking and group interests. You will realize that one’s in-person and online presence should be in sync, being a people connector is key, and you should protect your reputation in both arenas.
Add this edition to your professional development library by purchasing from your favorite bookstore (soft cover and eBook formats).
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