Three Networking Rules to Ditch Now
By Christine A. Shelly

The prospect of networking is enough to make most people a little uncomfortable. But there’s no denying the power of relationships when you’re competing for a job or a promotion.  At www.Grantham.edu we’ve made it our mission to make quality education affordable and attainable for working adults. As a result, most of the students we serve are already working at least part time – many are working full-time in the military, federal government, private sector, as law enforcement or first responders or entrepreneurs.
 
But if you’re working and serving full time and going to school, where are you going to find time to build your professional network? That’s a question we hear a lot. The good news is that since you’re working, you’ve already begun building your network. You’re off to a great start!
There are lots of resources available that offer networking tips and guidance.  Many of them are exceptional. But there are a few pieces of advice that should be taken with a grain of salt. Three commonly-followed rules that you should break (or at least bend a bit) include:

Rule #1:  Be Aggressive.
There’s a lot to be said for setting goals and going after them with enthusiasm, persistence and confidence. But when you’re trying to build a professional network, there’s a fine line between persistence and stalking. 

You SHOULD:
Do your research and identify people who are connected with your desired field of employment.

Join professional associations that are relevant and well-regarded in your field.

Not be afraid to introduce yourself to new people and ask intelligent questions about their industry or line of work

Ask your contacts to introduce you to people with whom you might have common goals, backgrounds or interests.

You SHOULD NOT: 
Doggedly contact people you’ve never met with requests for information, introductions, or job interviews.

Bombard professional groups with spam, blanket-send your resume to boards of directors “for their reference.”

Under any circumstances just “show up” at someone’s place of business without an invitation or prior appointment. That’s a pretty good way to earn yourself a restraining order.

Rule #2:  Use an Elevator Speech 
People don’t like to be “sold.” When you’re building rapport with people, giving them a well-rehearsed, well-timed presentation about yourself makes people feel like you’re trying to sell them something. You should know who you are, what you do, what your goals are – but when you go on autopilot and mindlessly rattle off a speech, it makes you sound like you either a) take no enjoyment in what you do or b) are trapped fox looking for an escape. That’s not a good way to start a relationship.

Let’s face it – at networking events, it’s safe to assume that everyone attending is there to meet people. There’s no need to force the situation. Once you’ve started a comfortable conversation and have begun to connect with someone, they’ll ask you what you do because that’s a normal part of a natural conversation. Be ready with an answer, but make sure it’s an authentic, conversational answer – not a slickly-produced sales speech. 

Rule #3:   Arriving Fashionably Late to Networking Events is Fine
Not really. If you want to enjoy a calmer, more relaxed atmosphere with an opportunity to spend more time getting to know people, showing up a few minutes early is your best bet.

Once an event starts, people settle into conversation clusters and it becomes a little more challenging to join. When you arrive before the throngs, you have your pick of the conversation partners.

Plus, in some situations, the event chairpersons may need an extra pair of hands getting things ready to go. What better way to demonstrate that you’re someone worth knowing than by pitching in to help out? 

At its core, networking is about building relationships. When you go about it sincerely, prepared to help and learn about others, it’s a little easier to relax and be open to new opportunities. 

Do you have any networking strategies or stories to share? We’d love to hear them. Dish them out in the comments.

REFERENCES:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_networking

http://www.naiop.org/en/Magazine/2012/Summer-2012/Business-Trends/New-Voices-Networking-101.aspx

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