Have you been to a trade association event lately? Suddenly heard from an old college buddy? With so many people between jobs these days, it's no surprise that everyone seems to be brushing up on their networking skills. The economy may not be booming, but the network certainly is. Friends who didn't return telephone calls a year ago are suddenly easier to get ahold of. After having been started-up then shut down, dot-commed (or dot-conned), un-vested, repositioned, downsized, made redundant, or laid flat by layoffs, it's no wonder people are "doing lunch" again. Even if you still love your old job, you're probably a little more visible these days. Here's a list of do's and don'ts to help you maneuver the art and science of professional networking.
- Network everywhere – trade associations, church, family, dentist's office.
- Remember people and help them feel great about themselves - treat everyone with respect.
- Keep your networking account in the black – put in more than you take out.
- Be one of the people others are glad to see or hear from.
- Figure out what you can do for people, and do it.
- Approach networking as an opportunity to build "the brand of you," which is often an extension of your company’s brand.
- Work events in pairs so you can hand people off – or come back to home base to compare notes and renew your energy.
- Refer people whenever you think there's a potential match – but use glowing reviews sparingly, so they'll have more impact.
- Pay genuine compliments, and accept compliments graciously.
- Proactively diversify your network by introducing yourself to people who look or seem different from you – everyone wins.
- Don't fake an interest in golf or sailing – every hobby has its network, so find one that makes you genuinely happy. Musicians, for example, are great networkers.
- Don't be too visible, or you'll flood the market with too much you.
- Don't monopolize people's time – learn the cues about when a conversation is over, and move on graciously to another great contact.
- Don't block people's access to food or drink.
- Don't be afraid of rich or famous people – just use your access to them wisely.
- Don't overnetwork or undernurture – your friends will complain that they only hear from you when you want something from them.
- Don't hold your drink in your right hand, or your handshake will be cold and damp; similarly, don't try to carry both a plate and a glass.
- Don't take your host for granted – and don't forget to be the host once in a while.
- Don't just collect contacts – you've got to put them in play.
- Don't focus all your energy on the tall, loud, good-looking extroverts in a room – you'll miss a lot of great contacts while competing for their attention.