The 5 Golden Rules of Networking

By Lisa Frank

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Picture it: Early morning coffee at your neighborhood café. You hop on LinkedIn to update your profile with the new job that you are excited to start the next day. Within minutes, you receive a Facebook message from…wait, who is THAT? Oh, yeah, an old classmate from high school that “friended” you a while back. It reads:

Hi Jane. Long time, no talk. I see you are living in (your city). I just moved here, too! I love it! It looks like things are going so well for you and your husband/wife (whose name he doesn’t know). Your kids are so cute, too! From your pictures, they look like a lot of fun. So… I noticed you are working at (new company just updated 3 minutes ago on LinkedIn). I really have been trying to get in there – I’ve applied to 3 or 4 of their job postings, but I haven’t heard anything. Could I send you my resume so it gets to the right person? I’m sure it’s just going into a black hole. I know we haven’t talked in a long time (10+yrs), but it would be great if you could put in a good word for me! Thanks again – I REALLY appreciate this. We should catch up sometime soon. Thanks, Jim

Sound familiar??

Networking is indeed, an art, filled with many do’s and don’ts, should’ves and could’ves. With so much emphasis today on building profiles and perusing social networks, people are more accessible, boundaries have been blurred, and there are varying standards about what is considered appropriate, acceptable and effective.

However, beneath it all, there are still social mores and etiquettes – Golden Rules - that hold true in order for the networking process to do what it’s supposed to do: to allow us to connect, interact and ultimately help each other in a genuine, thoughtful and reciprocal manner.

Don’t Be Shy: Get out there and meet people, face-to-face. Make it a goal to meet five new people the next time you go to a charity event, birthday party, trade show, conference or networking social hour. Learn about them – what they do, where they are from, about their families and interests. Exchange contact information. Don’t let their business cards collect dust on your desk. Follow up. Check in. Have dinner. Play golf. These people could become your new friends or future colleagues. But, you’ll never meet them if you don’t get out of the house.

Request, Don’t Expect: It’s true -you never know until you ask. But, your wish may not always be granted. When you are asking someone to do you a favor, know your audience - figuratively and literally. Don’t be pushy or demanding. Offer something in return. Don’t get angry if they can’t/won’t help you. Be appreciative of any effort, big or small, regardless of the outcome. Keep the door open. Give them a reason to want to help you in the future.

We are people, not just profiles: Even with pictures included, it can be easy to forget that those are people behind those profiles you’re reading. But, if you want to make a genuine and valuable connection, get out from behind the computer screen and make real time for them. Invite them for a cup of coffee or a drink. Or, if you can’t meet them in person, set a time to Skype/FaceTime, or have a phone call, at the very least. You never know what else you might have in common, or how you might be able to help each other- now or in the future. I promise, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you learn from a live conversation.

It’s not just about YOU: Give more than you take. Don’t keep score. Say yes to helping others. Pay it Forward. Reciprocate. It’s easy to just reach out to people when you need something, but the most successful networkers have a natural willingness to help others- even if there is nothing in it for them. Be generous. Make introductions. Think beyond yourself. What goes around, comes around.

Stay in touch: Remember when your contact introduced you to his former boss about that job you wanted? Did you ever follow-up to let him know the outcome? How about that former classmate job-seeker you recommended to a recruiter for a search? Did you ever find out what happened? When people help you, don’t just leave ‘em hanging. Keep them in the loop. Show appreciation for their efforts. And, even if there isn’t a particular reason, keep up on what is going on with your network. Send a birthday greeting. Or a congratulatory email about a promotion. Or a just note to say hi if it’s been a long time since you talked last. It’s okay to reach out, “just because.” People who are thinking of you, like to know that you are thinking of them, too.

As you begin 2015 with new goals and resolutions, remember the Golden Rules. Reconnect with old friends or colleagues, meet and connect with new people, and take the opportunity to help someone else reach his/her goals this year. Networking is key to professional development and career advancement. Face it – we are all in this together. We need each other.

Frankly speaking: It’s not just what you know OR who know you…but it’s how you connect with who you know that gets you to where you want to be.

Lisa Frank is the founder of LBF Recruitment Strategies. As an executive recruiter, connector and career/life coach she offers a "Frank" approach to all aspects of life. Her blog, Frankly Speaking shares her insights, guidance and outrageous (but true) stories about career and life topics with plenty of humor, relatability, experience and candor.

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