Why does “networking” get a bad rap?

Some people have a negative reaction to the idea of networking. Others avoid networking opportunities because they are uncomfortable or fearful. If the prospect of networking makes you uneasy, you have the wrong idea of what networking is about.

At a networking event, you may have seen someone grabbing as many business cards as possible while stuffing their card into your hand. Maybe you met someone who talked endlessly about himself or herself while never pausing to allow others to introduce themselves. You may have experienced the pushy follow-up, where someone you didn’t want to meet is calling you to sell you something you don’t want to buy.

Hopefully, this is not your approach to networking. If it is, immediately stop! You are contributing to the impression that “networking” is a bad word. No one would blame you for being turned o by such behavior. But that is not networking. It is just annoying. Unless a networking group or event is specifically designed for people to sell or pitch each other, such behavior is simply not appropriate in a professional networking situation.

“Networking” is not a bad word, but there are many bad networkers. ey are not bad people, but they have never learned the correct way to network. ey have not applied the “golden rule of networking.”

Your Written Communication Will Leave a Lasting Impression

Your written communication will leave a lasting impression. Emails are read, then re-read, and forwarded. Mistakes in grammar, punctuation, and spelling will leave a negative impression among your co-workers, bosses, and clients. In some ways, written communication is more hazardous than verbal communication because it leaves behind a trail of evidence and may cement a negative impression of you.

Although it’s also important to be grammatically correct in your verbal communications, your written words will remind people that either you’re a good writer or you are not. Your writing is a lasting record that can be distributed widely and will serve as a constant reminder of your ability (or lack of ability). The quality of your writing will reflect on your job performance. Now that you are convinced that writing can make or break your career, keep reading to learn how to master this very important skill.

HINT: Always use an online grammar-checking tool such as Grammarly.com

 

Networking = Building Professional Relationships

Successful professionals understand that networking is really about building relationships with other people. Although these relationships are professional in nature they are similar to the relationships in your personal life.

Your professional relationships need to be nurtured. Both people need to recognize the bene ts of their relationship and contribute to it. Have you ever had a friend or family member who seems to only take from your relationship, but doesn’t contribute? Relationships are not in balance at all times, but there must be some degree of equality over the long term or else it is not sustainable. is is as true for professional relationships as it is with personal relationships.

Email Dominates Your Day

The task of emailing consumes about a fourth of the average worker’s day, according to a 2012 report done by the McKinsey Global Institute and International Data Corporation. A separate survey estimated that the average corporate email user sends and receives about 105 emails per day.

Despite the many efficiencies of email, the sheer volume means you’ve got to use this tool effectively or else it can dominate your workday. Consider these issues:

  • Emails can be issued at a rapid- re pace generating multiple responses for a single subject.
  • Emails can be distributed to hundreds (or thousands) of people in an instant.
  • Email communications have replaced many face-to-face communications. A study done by officebroker.com found that 68 percent of respondents preferred email to face-to-face communication.
  • People will read your emails at different times, so the “conversation” can get out of sync. This is especially true when more people are included in the thread. Also, consider the impact of different time zones.
  • Many professionals use their email inbox as their “to do” list and/or a project management system despite its inherent weaknesses for this purpose.  Do not use your email inbox as a task management system. It is very inefficient.

Use Email Effectively

When communicating by email, follow these guidelines:

  • Be cautious when using “forward.” Does the original sender expect you to forward it? When you send an email, are you sure how it will be handled? Will the recipient forward it to others? Be safe and assume your email will be forwarded.
  • Be judicious when using “reply all.” Does everyone in the thread need to see your response? Or would it be better to reply to the Sender only.
  • Be careful with the “Bcc” function (blind copy). It can be useful to maintain the privacy of recipients in a widely distributed email, but otherwise be cautious.
  • One method that may improve email efficiency is to say something like this: “I intend to do ________ unless you advise me differently by __________.” By explaining your intended next action, you will keep the recipient informed without requiring a response. Some people will appreciate your initiative while others may be uncomfortable with this approach, so check before employing this technique.

Networking hint. . . location matters.

Where you stand in the room at a networking event can change the outcome for you. e two most important locations are the registration table and the beverage table.

If the event you’re attending has a registration table, this is where it all begins. Say hello to the person behind you in line. Linger after you’ve registered and received your nametag. is is a great place to strike up a conversation as people first arrive. Examine the nametags for people you’d like to meet and ask the organizers to introduce you when the person arrives.

e other key location is the beverage table. Depending on the event, it could be co ee or cocktails. People will often linger after getting a beverage, which is an ideal time to start a conversation. When it is your turn to order a drink from the bartender, turn and o er to get something for the person behind you in line. I’ve found this location much more e effective than a food table. Once people have food on their plate, they are less inclined to pause for a conversation.

Networking Hint. . . meet the organizer.

In the last post, we highlighted one benefit of arriving at a networking event early. Another benefit is that you increase the chances of meeting the person who organized or is hosting the event. is is a good person to know. If you are new to the particular group or event, you can mention this to the host and ask to be introduced to specific people. For example, you might say: “I am an accountant and would be very interested in meeting small business owners.” Or, “I am trying to meet someone who works with XYZ Company. Do you know if anyone from that company will be at this event?”

Remember, the key to networking is helping other people. If you ask for an introduction, it is important to o er your assistance. You may say, “As an accountant, I am able to refer people to nancial advisors, so if there is anyone here who is looking for a nancial advisor, I would be happy to make the introduction.” Or say, “As an accountant, I o er a free 30-minute consultation to non-pro t rms on how to run their bookkeeping. If there are any nonpro t organizations represented at this event, I would be happy to speak with them.” By doing this, you have also helped the organizer create a win-win-win situation for others attending.

Also, if you meet one of the event’s organizers, volunteer to help plan the next networking event or spread the word through a social media campaign. By helping to plan an event, you’ll naturally meet other people and build your network at the same time.

Networking Hint. . . arrive early

If you’re attending an event at which you don’t know many people, arrive early. Unlike being fashionably late to a social function, arriving early at a networking event makes it easier to become part of the party instead of feeling like you’ve arrived at a party that has started without you.

At the Networking Event – You’re On!

For people nervous about networking, showing up to a networking event may be the biggest hurdle of all. I hope that by preparing for that inevitable question, “What do you do?” you feel more con dent and less anxious. If not, spend more time practicing and rehearsing your short and long responses. Practice your dialogue with an iPhone, voice recording app, video recorder, or a friend.

The moment has arrived. You are attending a networking event or will be in a situation where you know networking will occur.

Examples of networking conversations

These are highly simplified examples, but they do emphasize several key points. First, in my experience, 99 percent of networking situations begin with ”What do you do?” You will be ready to answer effectively if you’ve prepared and practiced a short response that includes a hook and you have a well thought out long response. Is your hook eliciting the follow-up question or comment you intend? If not, consider changing it. It’s impossible to predict with certainty how people will respond, but being prepared will enable you to modify your answers as necessary.

Second, because you are prepared for the opening part of the networking conversation, the rest will probably flow smoothly. The result: better outcomes in relationship building. There is a lot more to establishing and maintaining a professional network than an introductory conversation. Of course, your responses will change as your career develops. Your responses also may vary with your goals for a particular networking situation.

Third, professional networking is not about a transaction (get- ting a job, making a sale, acquiring a client, investor, etc.). Instead, it is about building a mutually beneficial relationship in which the mutual bene t accrues over time. e examples here focus only on one side of the conversation. Your preparation and approach to the networking conversation might help guide the person to whom you are speaking if they are less well prepared or less comfortable.

Finally, always enter a networking event or situation with the mindset of what you can do to help someone else. As you are looking for these opportunities, you can help others help you by clearly describing what you do and whom you’d like to meet.