Everyone has contacts, but are you working them enough to create a true “network”?
If not, follow these tips from some top networkers:
“Ask, ‘What can I do to help you?’” says Liz Lynch, founder and executive director of the Center for Networking Excellence. Whether you’re catching up with a former coworker or meeting someone new at a “meet-n-greet,” provide additional value to that other person. Even if the individual needs specific help that you can’t offer, the fact that you asked and listened will go a long way.
Spell out your needs specifically. On the flip side, your contacts shouldn’t be left to figure out how best to help you; they’re too busy with their own needs. With a contact you know well, it’s actually more considerate to reach out with a specific request.
Send the right message when you greet a contact. Shaking hands, which is a key part of networking, gives subtle signals to other people who then gauge whether you are someone with whom they would like to network, says Jan Hargrave, a professor at the University of Houston and an expert in .
Tips for shaking hands: Offer your hand straight up and down with your palm open to the left (shows equal footing), connect web-to-web, then pump three times.
Create a networking plan, advises Lynch. Example: Maintain an active membership in one professional organization; plan to meet five new people each month; and call two existing contacts each week.
Such an individualized plan will allow you to make continual progress rather than moving in fits and starts.