The art of networking

Over the past ten years, the terms “Communication” and “Network” have undergone drastic changes in meaning. This is due, of course, to the proliferation of digital means of connecting with other people. What you may not be aware of are the profound effects this has had on the ways business and personal connections form.

Put yourself in the position of a modern day HR recruiter. Due to the ease and efficiency of forwarding résumés and job applications, businesses are positively awash in contacts and prospects. Whereas in a previous era passing out hundreds of business cards and shaking thousands of hands might have been beneficial to your professional network, today it’s quality over quantity that really matters. When everyone else in the business world is only a mouse click away, you need to find a way to stay out of people’s mental spam folders and into their field of attention.

Human Connection Matters

Surprisingly enough, the best way to make a connection in the modern world is through refreshingly old fashioned means. Whether you’re communicating on LinkedIn or in a hotel lobby, the following tips work wonders:

• Don’t appear to be “working the room.” If you decide to talk to someone, really talk to him or her. Peremptorily handing over a business card, or the electronic equivalent, will result in that person peremptorily tossing it in the garbage.

• Make it clear why building a relationship with you will benefit the other person. Coming into a dialogue with an attitude of “I need,” “I want,” and “I’d like to” will garner a response of “tough luck,” “nope,” and “too bad.” Always remember that you’re selling yourself.

• Listen carefully for cues that another person wants something from you. The best way to get something from someone is by doing that person a favor first. If a contact expresses a challenge, try to offer a solution.

• Make a date: Don’t let a conversation with an interesting contact end without attempting to establish the next rendezvous. Ask about their next project and offer to help, offer to meet for lunch, or ask what they’re doing next Friday. Do whatever it takes to stay in the loop.

• Be selective. This can be hard, but you need a process for filtering the wheat from the chaff. You don’t want to spend hours in a fruitless conversation with someone who is unwilling or unable to help you.

Keeping these basic guidelines in mind, navigating the social media and online professional networks will become a lot easier. Unfortunately it’s not quite that simple. You need to develop a strategy to maximize your benefits from online communication and networking.

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