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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Networking is Better Than Not Working

My new job has finally (after only 3 weeks) developed into what I enjoy about my job. Networking.

Most people hate that word and many people never grasp the benefit of it. The words of this aged middle eastern man whom I became acquainted with in Tulsa ring in my ears every time I get ready to network. He used to say "Networking is better than not working."

So taking a break from my life's rather boring events I want to share with you the truths about networking that I have learned.

1. Networking is about getting something out of someone that you want, but you can never - NEVER - think, act, talk or anything remotely close to showing that.

In truth we network with others because we want to benefit from what they have or who they know. But you can never let on that that's your objective. Your objective must always remain that you want to help them. You know people they don't know, you have things that they don't know. You just have to convince yourself that you have something worth while that they need.

2. You have to have something to offer the other person. If you don't it's not called networking, it's called leeching.

Beyond just believing that you have something for the other person, you actually have to offer something. This is where creativity plays a huge part. People often make the mistake of thinking that all they have to offer is their products and services. In reality that's about the smallest thing you have to offer. If someone mentions that they are having a stressful day because their car is broke down, suggest a mechanic that you know is honest. If they mention problems with their teenage daughter, tell them about the book you just read or the conference you just attended that dealt with that same issue. Even send them a copy of the book if it seems appropriate.

3. Networking is not a time for controversy or conflict.

Think of it as meeting your future in-laws. There are just some things that you never want to bring up during that first dinner. Politics, gossip and deep frustrations are perfect examples. Why? Because you don't know where they are going to fall on these topics and you haven't earned their trust and understanding yet to solidify your fragile relationship if you do have a difference of opinion. I never lie about my beliefs, but I often avoid or redirect. Making peaceful conversation about their interests is much more beneficial than debating the latest amendment to be made by the city council.

4. Think solution oriented

Every person, company and organization has a problem. Be a trouble shooter. Ask the question "what can I do to help you?" This opens them up to voice problems they need help with. You probably won't be able to cut them a check for $3 million to get them out of debt, but you can suggest a solution or a person who has the solution.

5. Assume they will want to meet you.

Never apologize for bothering someone. You aren't bothering them. In all honesty, most people are glad to grab coffee or lunch. It breaks up their otherwise monotonous day. If you assume they want to meet you it will keep you positive. When you assume you are an inconvenience, it puts you at a disadvantage because your whole demeanor becomes weak and cowardly.