It can be lonely out there, but don’t let it be. Instead, pick up the phone, go to lunch with someone, or join a networking group. With all these options, loneliness is a choice, not a plight. Networking can be the key to successful career; it can also make it fun along the way.

Here are few suggestions on networking:

• Always be friendly and always ask others questions about them. Focus the conversation on them; it is all about them and not about you.
• Don’t sell. Don’t close. The purpose of networking is to connect on a personal level while creating an opportunity for follow up. If you start to sell too soon or close a deal on the spot, you likely will skip a few steps and not get the desired outcome.
• Always follow up. Entering a business card in a contact manager such as Microsoft Outlook or ACT! is a good thing, but you should not stop there. I recommend that you follow up quickly, before your contact forgets meeting you. I would wait no more than two days, at most.
• Always carry plenty of business cards (duh!). Exchange business cards. Offer yours first. If they don’t offer theirs, ask them for one. Write notes on the back of their card that include what you promised, the date, and other pertinent information. Consider carrying a digital recorder to capture key information; after you have met someone new and walked away, you can quickly dictate the valuable information learned for retrieval later.
• Don’t presume that you understand what others do or what is important to them. Stop yourself from jumping to conclusions. Ask more questions, confirm your understanding. Be an active listener.
• Offer your help. Be interested. Offer a referral. Suggest that you will get back to them. Suggest that you want to learn more.
• Suggest an introduction to someone you know who might prove interesting to them. Offer to meet them for coffee sometime.
• Follow up. Always. Hand-written notes may be best since people will read them. Suggest a meeting, deliver the reference, etc. If you follow up with a note card, include a comment about something they said, preferably something personal about them. Try to connect as a friend. E-mail is instantaneous, but pedestrian. Leaving voice mails works too, but don’t expect a call back.
• How often can you call them? This is tricky. How often would you want to be contacted? A note card with a phone call would be OK to me. A follow-up call about a week later is fine. After that, you may appear to be a stalker or an insurance salesman. In selling, calling up to five times with messages left behind is a good number. When networking, I find it to be more delicate. A final follow-up message suggesting that was nice to meet them, while letting them know it is fine for them to call you back may be the final step.
• Sometimes people don’t call back. People are busy and it may be a matter of timing. It can be the method of communication; I have had people not return my phone calls but when I e-mailed them, I got an immediate response. So, try a different method if you are not successful in connecting on the first try.
• People also need a reason or incentive to call you back. What value is there for them to call you back? While some people may call you back with little or no incentive, most won’t. My personal rule is to always call back once, even if it is a call from an insurance salesman. However, I may be different from most people.
• I recommend that you read the book NEVER EAT ALONE: AND OTHER SECRETS TO SUCCESS, ONE RELATIONSHIP AT A TIME by Keith Ferrazzi. His message is simple and you can put it to action immediately. He emphasizes the importance of having access to people of power and influence. He reminds you to not keep score on who last corresponded to whom; rather, he encourages you to give unconditionally since you will be rewarded later. He also suggests that you network all the time and not just when you need it.
• Finally, treat everyone you meet as if they were a VIP. Someday they may be. Be kind to the little people. Don’t make enemies and don’t burn bridges. They may be needed tomorrow. Stay in touch always.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.
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