Volume 11, no. 1
By Miriam Krasno
You’ve heard it before: almost any occasion can be an opportunity to network. But too often people use the term “networking” to excuse boorish behavior. Networking is building reciprocal relationships, and it should start long before you start looking for new business. Margaret Dikel, author of The Riley Guide ( www.rileyguide.com), says effective networking “does not have to be a carefully-choreographed process of meeting and greeting people.” Best done informally, she writes, networking is “a two-way street” that should benefit both parties.
That means you need to show an interest in people—what is it that they need? The clues will be in their conversations, their offices, even their cars. When you’re seated next to strangers at a business function, ask them what brought them there and what they hope to get out of it. When someone offers you a ride, notice what music is playing on the car radio. When you’re in someone’s office, note the photos on the desks. I used to have a photo of my parrot in my office. Soon, colleagues started giving me clippings and videos about training parrots. When one of these coworkers needed help on a project, it felt natural to oblige.
You establish common ground when you help others. And it doesn’t have to be a major undertaking. You can do a little research on their favorite topics, provide some resources, and tap into your own network. E-mail makes this kind of act almost effortless; forwarding a Web site address that might interest a new contact is a great way to stay in touch. And don’t overlook casual encounters: at your children’s events or PTA meetings; after religious services; at the dog park; even at your doctor’s office. Never overlook an opportunity to learn about someone you might see on a regular basis—and try to assist that person with information, referrals, or ideas.
Playing an active role in a wide network will enable you to access resources for any goals you set. I rarely have to blindly choose a service provider; my network has led me to the best doctors, lawyers, contractors, factory outlets, and to countless contacts for my clients.
Taking an interest in people makes it easy for them to refer a client to you or ask for help later on because you’re no longer strangers—you’ve already made the connection.
Miriam Krasno is president of Krasno & Associates, Inc., Comprehensive Career Coaching and Life Planning Services. Contact her at (847) 679-5960 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Is your Net-Working? by Anne Boe (John Wiley & Sons)
• Networking Smart by Wayne Baker (McGraw Hill)
• Power Networking by D. and S. Vilas (Mountain Harbor Publications)