Networking for business purposes: simple steps for lifelong networking

by Diana Armacanqui

As college students, having only slightly experienced the professional world, networking is an illusive term that conjures mostly feelings of anxiety and annoyance. However, Tom Alexander, Chief Operating Office of 1871, emphasizes that the concept of networking goes beyond a two-hour time commitment at an event at this workshop, Networking: Building Relationships between People and Organizations. Rather than just the conversations happening at such events, it is a lifestyle attitude that you can practice anywhere with anyone at any time. With the help of technology in this new economy, it’s been easier than ever to learn how to do it and practice it. Alexander shared eleven steps in order to foster successful lifelong networking.

1.       It starts now
Be present. From the moment you meet someone, you have a relationship to develop with them. A handshake is your first physical interaction with anyone, so train your hand to meet the strength of their handshake.

2.     Accept the fuzzy math
Networking is not equation of input yields output. Instead, it’s an unpredictable equation where you can only control the input. The outcomes are uncertain in both their timeliness and magnitude. However, once you shift your attitude of networking as a practice that is both giving and getting, all the input won’t seem like a hassle. Giving is the right thing to do.

3.     What’s in a name?
It’s the sweet spot for everyone. Saying it is a simple signal that you care.

4.     It’s not about you!
Ask at least three questions at the beginning of every interaction before you mention yourself. This gives you the opportunity to learn who they are and how you can relate to them more deeply. This gives you momentum in your conversation.

5.     If there is a person, there is value.
You learn something from everyone. You may not be looking for a job at the grocery store checkout counter or in the taxi, but it will help you practice how to interact with every sort of individual. You will become a natural and it will show through when you actually are trying to find a job.

6.     Social Media is a double-edged sword
Today we have the ability to make a single weekend interaction last a lifetime. We are able to get in contact with anyone at any point. However, this means there is a lot of noise, and this makes it hard to make people notice or remember you. Recognize social media as a tool to interact.

7.     Share a meal
To weave networking into your everyday life, you need to be efficient. Grabbing coffee is trumped by sharing a meal. Everyone needs to eat, and breaking bread is an experience to share. Breakfast is best.

8.     Networking is your business practice
Soccer professionals always carry a soccer ball; pianists are practicing at their piano. In the business world, networking is what you have to practice to be the best in your profession.

9.     Follow-up and follow-through
Be prepared to do 200% of the work for a successful interaction. If it doesn’t flesh out, there are always other opportunities. Even more so, follow-through with every opportunity presented to you.

10. Build others up
Not recognizing the strengths in others or withholding praise actually reflects more on you than them. It reveals your insecurities. Be confident enough that you can recognize the skills of others--people will notice it and appreciate it.

11. Have fun!
People want to be around people they like and feel good around. It’s simple.

Implementing these steps into your daily life will ensure that you are making strides to creating your dream network that can both fuel your career and also enhance your life. Regardless of your outcomes, Alexander stresses that it is important to have the same disposition and attitude whether you have your dream job or are looking for a job. There are always opportunities to network and you will realize the investments later in life.