Avoid Naïve Networking. Make it Count

Successful networking should be an enjoyable, beneficial experience for both parties involved.  Unfortunately, too many networking overtures fall flat due to lack of preparation by individuals initiating the discussion.

I found excellent networking advice from The Acton Foundation.   Based at the University of Texas, Austin, the Acton Foundation provides teachers and aspiring entrepreneurs with a wide variety of courses and learning tools.  

Even though written for entrepreneurs, the following 12 suggestions are quite relevant for anyone engaged in networking: 

1.  Do your personal soul searching and industry homework first.

Take a personal inventory. Take aptitude tests. Ask those who know you well what you do better than most. Do whatever it takes to narrow your search to a few industries.  Read about these industries and the leading companies and people.

Personal interviews with teachers, entrepreneurs and executives should not be used to narrow your search or learn about jobs or industries. A stranger or casual acquaintance doesn’t know you well enough to map out your career. This is a very inefficient use of a busy person’s time.

2.  Be specific about what you need. Make sure the other person understands how a little effort on their part can make a big difference in your life.

Be clear about what you want. People are more likely to help you if they understand what you need, why it matters and how they can help with a minimum of time and effort. If you can’t explain this in a few sentences, you don’t need a meeting.

3.  Always put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

Whenever you contact anyone, stop and put yourself in their shoes. Why would they want to talk with you? How can you make it easy on them? How can you demonstrate that talking with you would be entertaining or educational? At the very least, be humble and appreciative.

4.  Make it easy.

Never ask for a lunch if a short meeting will do. Never ask for a meeting if a phone call will suffice. Never ask for a phone call if an e-mail will get the job done.

5.  Don’t pester.

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