Tips for networking

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Joining a networking group, volunteering, and listening sincerely are all great networking tips
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Five simple tips for networking effectively in today's business environment

Networking is one of the most important actions that professionals can undertake in today’s business environment.  Networking is the key to meeting new people, and building lasting, long term relationships with individuals you can trust.

Certainly, networking can be challenging; especially amidst all the demands on our time made by our business, professional and personal lives.  Thus, it can be tempting to assign a lower priority to networking as an activity designed to meet new people.  One of the most important tips for networking is simply to make the most of every networking opportunity.

According to nationally recognized author, and business/leadership consultant David A. O'Brien, effective networking is about being authentic and genuine, and taking the initiative and the time to meet new people, engage them in conversation, and listen attentively.   Two tips for networking effectively are maintaining a positive attitude, and trying to find commonalities rather than differences.

It’s also critical to remember, explains O’Brien “Network is not simply about helping yourself, and it’s about finding out how you can help others.  In fact, networking is more than a two-way street; it is the superhighway to unlocking our success capacity.”

In his 2008 book, The Navigator's Handbook: 101 Leadership Lessons for Work and Life, O’Brien offers guidance and tips for networking, and encourages readers to make the commitment and take the initiative to seek out opportunities, events, groups, programs and resources that fit their personal networking mission.   “Absent a purposeful plan and process, networking success is all too evasive,” O’Brien concludes.

Five Simple Tips for Networking: 

1.  Join a networking group. 
Find a group that fits with your networking mission or business experience, such as a small business networking group, a group for women business owners, or even a golf league, book group or knitting group that appeals to you.  You never know where your next business contact could come from. 

2.  Volunteer your time.  Hold volunteer positions in organizations. Volunteering is great way to stay visible and active in a community, and meet new people.  It is also a rewarding way to give back to organizations or foundations that have helped you.

3.  Listen twice as much as you talk.
  Listening is a key to effective communication.  When you have the privilege of meeting new people, ask them questions about themselves.  People enjoy talking about themselves and they feel flattered when you express an interest in their work.  Ask people open ended questions such as who, what, how, and when to get them talking about themselves.  Take the time to listen sincerely and people will reciprocate.

4.  Follow through and follow up. 
When you meet new people, be sure to ask for their business cards, and hand out yours.  Call people who meet who you feel may benefit from your business expertise, and vice versa.  Make a point of expressing how much you enjoyed meeting people whom you find commonalities with, and make time to share more ideas with them.  
Follow through quickly and efficiently on any referrals you are given. When people give you referrals, your actions are a reflection on them. Respect and honor that and your referrals will grow.  If you're not going to follow up religiously, or follow through quickly, don't bother networking.

5.  Online networking is critical in today’s business world.  Establish an Internet presence by creating a business website, a LinkedIn page, a blog or discussion forum.  Make a point of joining newsgroups or forums on topics that interest you.  Share the address of your online pages with colleagues, friends and other potential networking resources.

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