March 30, 2015 Practice Points

How to Network Successfully

By Katie Foley

In the article “The Right (and Wrong) Way to Network,” professional speaker and Duke professor Dorie Clark outlines how to successfully network. Ms. Clark cautions that “transactional networking” (or networking with a specific goal of finding a job, venture funding, or clients) is not the same as networking with the goal to build a “robust set of connections over time.” According to Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino, transactional networking “often makes participants feel so bad about themselves, they feel ‘dirty.’” Ms. Clark recommends that if you are planning on doing transactional networking you should be up-front with the contact about your intentions. This will allow them the opportunity to make an informed decision about whether they want to connect.  

Ms. Clark goes on to provide a detailed process of how to successfully network with the goal of making robust connections. First, she advocates that you make a connection through a common interest. She suggests that if you have a preplanned meeting with someone, you research them beforehand on social media and other online resources to find possible common interests, such as “shared alma mater, hobby, or professional interest.” Ms. Clark also encourages thinking of thoughtful questions in advance about their business, and avoiding the worn questions like “What keeps you up at night?”

Her next recommendation is to arrange to meet in person. While telephone and video chats will suffice if you are not in the same location as the other person, whenever possible try to find out when you will next be in the same city and make a plan to connect. This will help solidify the new connection.

Additionally, Ms. Clark advises that before meeting with the person, you should think about and formulate an answer as to how you can help them. Throughout the meeting you can test this hypothesis by asking subtle questions. At the end of the meeting you can ask them directly about your idea. Ms. Clark provides some ideas of how you may be able to help your new connections. For example, if you are meeting with an entrepreneur, they are likely looking for new clients and you can suggest introducing them to someone you know who could use their products or services. Ms. Clark also suggests that you can offer publicity with your existing contacts, share their social media posts, or comment on their blogs.

Ms. Clark’s last piece of advice is to not ask your new contact for favors for a long time. Her rule of thumb is that you should not ask your contact for anything until you have known them for at least a year. Although there may be exceptions for people who you hit it off with right away, it is better to “err on the side of waiting and establishing trust.”

Keywords: litigation, woman advocate, networking, contacts, common interest, transactional networking

Katie Foley works at Hinshaw & Culbertson in Minneapolis, Minnesota


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