The Art of Professional Connections:
Success Strategies for Networking
in Person and Online
Chapter 1: AFTER HOURS SOCIAL PROSPECTING
A prospector pans for gold until one day he finally discovers it among all the small rocks and debris. This is how networking works. You are prospecting for your networking nuggets of gold. These nuggets can come in the form of helpful information or a business lead. To make the process work, you have to keep panning and occasionally change streams. While some live and online streams consistently fill your needs, others you only discover when you get restless or there is a need to move on.
I have certainly had my share of “empty” prospecting pans. However, what I have learned is that I cannot stop trying; I must keep panning. In fact, most of the team of experts that I organized to help enhance the content of each of my books came from these very streams. I am just using these contacts differently than I originally planned. Where would we be today if the miners had given up and stopped panning after each disappointment?
- To help you find and develop the right career marketplace strategy or determine the social networking opportunity that works for you;
- To show you how you can make social prospecting comfortable and successful by broadening your networking opportunities, making the best social connections, and understanding the value of connecting people; and
- To encourage you to be a people connector!
There are many variables to the prospecting process, whether internal or external, that allow you to find new opportunities. They are all broken down and explained in detail in this chapter.
Chapter 2: MASTER THE SKILL OF MINGLING
Imagine that it is an extremely hot day. You are at a park and there is a lake, and the temptation gets the best of you so you dive in. Then it dawns on you that you cannot swim. Oh no! Now you are struggling to survive. This is what networking can be like.
In my early days of networking, I did just that. I rushed in, found myself in the middle of the room, and did not know what to do with myself. So I scrambled back to the lobby feeling defeated before I even started. Then I got wise. I stood on the sidelines and watched the pros work the room. What I learned is that you cannot network until you overcome your “mingle phobia.” The best way to accomplish this is with a strategy. It is all about feeling confident, making yourself known, and being approachable. Learning from this experience, I came up with a three-step strategy that works like a charm.
- To demonstrate that confidence makes all the difference in demonstrating your social expertise and leadership skills;
- To help you make a plan to overcome social barriers, dilemmas, shyness, or faux pas and interact with a demeanor of self-assuredness; and
- To provide tips on how to approach with confidence, mix and mingle like a pro, and be prepared in every detail—attire, posture, attitude, and attention to body language.
Chapter two goes into substantial detail on how to mingle with ease. It also shares a technique on how to juggle a handshake, hors d’oeuvres, and beverage all in one smooth move.
Chapter 3: NETWORKING AS A CAREER MANAGEMENT TOOL
Networking is like trying to cultivate a flower garden. You don’t just plant the seeds and then hover over them. Nor do you throw out a bunch of seeds and hope for all of them to sprout and grow. You create the conditions for their growth and take pleasure in watching them blossom. Then you continue to nurture them. Just as there is no such thing as one generic flower, there is no such thing as one generic network or networker.
This was probably the most challenging yet helpful lesson that I have learned about effective networking. Without a plan I wasted a lot of time and energy, and I lost potential business opportunities. I would collect business cards and throw them into a small box. Then, when I “took the time” to go through them, I forgot which were the weeds and which were the potential flowers. (To me a “weed” is a card that is shoved into my hand without introduction or interest.) Now I focus on collecting the business cards of individuals whom I can help as well as the cards that are potential leads for me.
- To explain the importance of setting goals for your networking efforts and following your plan;
- To familiarize you with the types and styles of networkers; and
- To demonstrate the need for tracking, qualifying and following up on the connections you make.
This chapter guides you in learning how to focus your networking efforts, identify different personal styles of networking, and handle those “pet peeve” moments.
Chapter 4: PURSUE ONLINE OPTIONS INTELLIGENTLY
I am the first to admit that I am not a social media pro. I tried to figure it out on my own, created my profile page, and then started posting. As easy as it is supposed to be, I found it overwhelming and confusing; so I decided that it was time to attend a social media seminar sponsored by SCORE (a nonprofit association dedicated to helping businesses grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship). The seminar was conducted by Antoinette Kelleher-Raynes, a social media consultant.
The workshop was great yet daunting. Know the feeling? Plus, I just did not want to spend any more time trying to figure out the social media world. I decided that I would hire Antoinette to help me rework my profile, create postings, and do the invites … basically, to get me started the right way. Yes, I have a ways to go and more to learn, but I am now on board with LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
The objectives of this chapter are …
- To explain the importance of creating a strategy when using social media;
- To help you become comfortable with building your online presence and engaging prospects; and
- To show you how to protect yourself by creating a best practices manual.
If you are a novice or feel that you have skipped some steps, this chapter guides you in learning how to get started with social media.
Chapter 5: HOW TO START A NETWORKING EVENT OR GROUP
Networking is about connection, collaboration, teamwork, synergy, enrichment, and bonding. It comes from the position of power, abundance, cooperation, reciprocal help―the more you give, the more you get. The list is endless. Networking can help you move ahead or remain comfortable where you are. It can introduce you to allies you didn’t know you had, and it can help your business survive or enhance your personal growth. If you are a conscientious networker, you will never forget who helped you along the way.
Several years ago I met Len Kreusler, who invited me to join his leads club. At the time, I had no idea how a leads club worked. Furthermore, Len was relentless in helping me learn how to utilize my leads club membership to develop business relationships in an unfamiliar market. I have always appreciated his help. Len Kreusler is the driving creative force behind a successful business-to-business networking model that hit its strongest stride during a down economy. Len found networking a cost-effective and worthwhile way for him to build relationships, and in-person networking did it best. Today, his leads club is flourishing and serves as a valuable source of referrals for its twenty-five member firms.
Gelie Akhenblit launched her networking mixers with the goal of mobilizing the business networking community around a single collaborative platform. In just a few years, her idea blossomed into a leading online resource for business owners, entrepreneurs, and professionals looking to connect locally. In just three years, her membership reached 18,000 members. I met Gelie at one of her famous mixers and asked her to share her story and process.
I met Sanjay Gupta at a networking event through a mutual colleague when he was employed at Chase Bank. I was intrigued when I learned about the personal experiences that helped him create his own company. Like so many today, Sanjay Gupta had a degree and no job. Traditional networking platforms were not working for him, so Sanjay decided to explore the social media avenue. As a result, he created a phenomenal following in a short period of time. From this experience he founded Kreativ Enterprises Inc. There are many social media success stories; however, Sanjay’s story is one that everyone can relate to.
Lon Safko is often asked, “Where do you come up with all the content needed in order to participate in all the different types of social media.” I heard Lon make a presentation to a group of business leaders, and he had them “in the palm of his hand” wanting to know how to take their social medias to a more advance level. So, I asked Lon to share his story as well.
Networking success stories are everywhere, and I find that reading about them or experiencing them in action is inspirational. However, it takes individuals who create the venues and the opportunities for that success to happen. Networking venues (offline or online) do not just happen. They are planned by dedicated and passionate people. When I encounter someone who “stands out,” I approach that person and learn as much as I can about his or her success process. This is how networking truly works! No matter how much time goes by, you pull people forward when the opportunity presents itself. You never forget the people who helped you, and you always keep them in mind for opportunities. It really is about paying it forward.
The objectives of this chapter are …
- To provide you with the steps needed to start your own networking small group or event;
- To encourage you to take action; and
- To introduce you to the live and online networking pros and show you how they created their empire.
The pros highlighted in this chapter will take you step-by-step through their process to create a successful social media or in-person networking strategy.
REFLECTING ON YOUR PROGRESS
Too often you can forget—or in a moment of frustration overlook—how valuable your networking efforts have become. A networking chart to help you reflect and record your progress is outlined in the final section of the book.
Sometimes we just need a reminder
of the power of networking.