The Three “Be’s” Of Networking – Be Organized. Be Curious. Be Valuable.
1. Be Organized. More than likely you’ve had a list of to-dos every day, week and month when you get to the office. Think of networking the same way — create some structure around your days so that you can be productive and be able to measure progress. Networking can be very esoteric and vague, and without an organized game plan you will likely find it difficult to stick to it. Before making any phone calls or sending any emails, get your arms around your rolodex. Everyone is in play: friends, co-workers, neighbors, service providers, etc. Set daily and weekly activity goals for yourself, i.e. number of calls, number of emails, and number of meetings. Take notes and keep records of your activity so that you can revert to them as you meet new people, learn about new companies and trends, etc.
2. Be Curious. Securing a meeting is the easy part — what you accomplish during that meeting is paramount. Think of it almost as a first date, without some sort of connection a second date is unlikely. So it’s up to you to establish that connection so that you have a reason to follow up. Connections can be professional or personal, so spend time learning as much as you can about him/her.
3. Be Valuable. This is where the rubber meets the road. How do you ensure that your contacts think of you when an opportunity crosses their desk? You’ll need to do something to stand above the crowd of others meeting the same people you are, especially if you haven’t known them long. If you’ve learned enough about the people you are meeting (see #2 above), you will be armed with information that you can leverage into something of value for them. It’s obviously natural to want to stay in contact with those you meet; however, you want to avoid the “check-in” call at all costs. Another activity goal: pick 5 people each month and do something for them. Doesn’t really matter what it is or who you do it for, just the fact that you are thinking of them will pay dividends down the road.
None of this is complicated, but it’s not easy. Being a good networker requires discipline, interest and energy. Differentiate yourself by providing value to those you meet and your phone will ring.