Networking in business is harped on so often. But it is one of those things that can’t be simply attained, it has to be cultivated. I over the past few years have started to build a network that I can lean on, especially during times like now. But what is probably more important, others can lean on me.
Late last week I ran across two resources I thought were great.
The first is an article on Fortune.com in the Ask Annie section called Be a Better Networker. Anne Fisher speaks to a couple of references, namely Ivan Misner from www.bni.com. He wrote a book that bebunks a common misconception – six degrees of separation. What he says is that the finders show 29% of people are separated by six connections. The other 71% are not. That is important because it means many people can get better at networking and that there are few honest to goodness stars out there. Misner, in the article, offers these tidbits for connecting with someone you don’t know very well:
Next time you go to a networking event, including an office party, Misner suggests asking a trusted friend to keep an eye out and report back on how you measure up in these four areas:
Eye contact. Are you making steady eye contact throughout your conversations, or looking behind the person you’re talking with, to see who else is there?
Arm movement. Where are your arms while you’re chatting? Are they folded across your chest (which says, “I’m bored”)? It’s better if they’re tucked behind your back (“I’m interested, I’m listening”). If you’re in the habit of gesturing when you talk, to add emphasis to your words, that’s good too.
Positioning. Are you standing in an open, welcoming way – or blocking people out of your conversation? Are you leaning on something, looking tired or bored? Are you unable to shake hands because you’re juggling a glass and a plate? Tsk, tsk.
Facial expressions. Misner advises keeping conscious control of the look on your face. You don’t have to wear a nonstop grin, but do try to look friendly and interested, even if you’re not.
What you say counts too, of course. Within the first seven seconds of meeting someone new, ask a question like this: “How can I help you or your business?” “Ask her to talk about what she does,” advises Misner. “This others-oriented approach produces a powerful and positive first impression, because people remember you as the person who offered to help them – not just as someone trying to sell them something or get something from them.”
The second resource about networking I liked was from the Wall St Journal. It is called How to Build a Job Network. The premise centers on mentoring and how that can have benefits for both the mentor and mentee. Kathy Kram is interviewed below and she says that two skills are needed for good mentoring. They are the ability to actively listen and have self awareness. Listening is important because it strengthens the bond and how each person can help the other. Self awareness is important because it identifies the strengths of the relationship i.e. sometimes it is better to defer to someone more knowledgeable.
And finally, if you don’t believe that networking is worthwhile, check out this link of the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit.