Friday, November 21, 2008

My Latest Thoughts on How to Network Successfully

One-shot meet-and-greets rarely result in connections strong enough that someone will want to abet your career. The core principle: Join the successful. Examples:
  • your career's professional association's conference-planning committee
  • a board of directors of a nonprofit you believe in
  • go on a cruise 
  • a few-day-long training or retreat
  • a class that meets for at least a few sessions.
  • actively participate in an online discussion group, especially one in your profession.
  • a club: for example, a golf or tennis club, or a public affairs forum such as the World Affairs Council or Commonwealth Club.
Do not ask for help until you've developed a mutually caring relationship.  As the Chinese aphorism states,"Unless the proper foundation is laid, your request will not be granted."  So, work on developing those relationships. The good news is that it's often possible to create deep connection quite quickly:

  • Ask about things more central to a person than the sports scores or the pretty outfit. I’m not saying you have to process deep feelings right away if ever, but people care plenty about their career, health, relationships, and finances. 
  • Find out what the person is most concerned about and explore that, being sure to not just ask questions but also to share common ground with them--for example, "I had the same experience...."
  • Be careful not to give unwanted advice, especially to women. The stereotype is generally true: women mainly want to be heard rather than to have their problem solved. When you’re talking with a man, however, you usually can be freer to tactfully offer a suggestion. Indeed, mutually helping each other may bond you enough that you both want to help each other’s careers.
  • After you've explored an issue of theirs, share a concern of yours. 
Finally, you must view networking as an ongoing, enriching part of your life, whether or not it yields career benefits. Otherwise, you'll prematurely give up on it. It usually takes a long time for networking to pay off in a major career benefit to you.  Recognize that even if it doesn't, creating deep connections with lots of people will contribute substantially to your living the life well-led.

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