Networking/Schmoozing

Networking is not simply the exchange of business cards, and schmoozing is not simply chatting up a potential boss simply to get a job. While both terms generally receive these negative connotations, there is much more to both and they should be considered in a much more positive light. Although difficult to accurately measure, it is generally considered that between 40% and 60% of all jobs are offered through personal connections and are not offered through public sources. For social entrepreneurs, it is even more important to have the right contacts because you need to recruit new team members, attract donors, and develop and maintain partnerships.

What is networking and why is it important?

Tool to develop new relationships: Networking is all about getting to know people at a personal level. Relating based on common experiences or beliefs, or simply being curious, will go a long ways to developing new relationships with people. Being genuinely interested in other people helps significantly in developing these new relationships.

Provide value to others: Networking is not about getting only what you want. By being useful to other people, you can leverage your strengths and talents towards helping other people achieve their goals. This is important because it establishes rapport between you and that person, which results in the ability for you to ask a favor that makes sense for both of you in the future.

Find reason to socialize: Networking is not an end in itself. You don't go out to simply network. You go out with a specific goal in mind, such as meeting five new people, learning about what others are doing, getting a feel for a particular industry, or simply to have fun. To clarify, you should not go out and network because "it is something you should do."

How can I begin networking?

Enjoy yourself: First things first, if you can't enjoy yourself, others won't be able to enjoy your company. Being comfortable and enjoyable as an individual creates the best first impression for anyone.

Don't view setbacks as permanent: So what if you said something you shouldn't have said. Happens to the best networkers, and only through more practice does one get better. Some people may naturally be good at networking, but most need plenty of practice before they can schmooze with the best.

Pay attention and listen: This becomes much easier when you are genuinely interested in what the other individual has to say. By listening and carefully considering what the person you are talking to has to say, you go a long way in developing rapport.

Research those you will meet: For the most part, you can only be hurt by what you don't know. By researching an individual, you can get an inside scoop on some of the things they have done in the past, their interests, and their successes. By building on that (without explicitly stating that you did large amounts of research on the individual), you may be able to draw out common areas of interest and develop the relationship without fumbling through a variety of topics looking for common ground.

Ask for what you want indirectly: If you are looking for a job, the worst thing to do is ask directly for a job from the person you are talking to. The reason why is due to the pressure that is placed on the other individual, especially if they don't have a job for you. By asking instead, "Do you know of anyone who is looking for someone in XYZ field?" This allows the individual to be helpful, and if they do have a job opening and wish to share it, they will. If they don't have any information, they don't feel the uncomfortable pressure to help you out.

Flattery works: Don't get me wrong, there is good flattery and there is bad flattery. Good flattery is genuine and sincere; a recognition of the strengths and/or accomplishments of that individual. By acknowledging and appreciating these characteristics of the individual, you are able to strengthen the emotional aspect of the relationship.

Following up and staying in touch.

Always follow up (the sooner the better): Following up sooner (but not too soon) shows that you enjoyed talking with that person and that you would like to continue having a relationship with that person. If a person has performed some kind of favor for you, especially follow up with a thank you card.

Keep yourself on everyone's radar: Use mass mailings, e-mail, phone calls (even messages on voice mail), postcards, and forwarded articles to stay in touch with people. The less personalized, the smaller the effect, but by offering something like unique services through your emails, you are much more likely going to remain in the memory of others.

Keep your information on friends and acquaintances organized and up-to-date: Whether you use an online resource or index cards, keeping the information for your contacts up to date may be one of the most tedious things to do, but is definitely one of the most important. This is becoming much easier with applications like Facebook and LinkedIn, but they are still important for relationship details.

Conclusion

The art of networking is one of the hardest skills to do well, and there are many who do it poorly. Once you become a first class schmoozer, though, you will be able to receive and provide the benefits of a highly leveraged network of friends and professional acquaintances. Now get out there and meet 20 new people before next week!

Resources

Primary Source:

"Vault Guide to Schmoozing" By Marcy Lerner, Ed Shen, ebrary, Inc, Mark Oldman, Vault (Firm)

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