But mastering this crucial skill requires more than just schmoozing over cheese platters and exchanging business cards. There’s actually an art to it.
“Since there are so many different platforms for people to market themselves these days, you have to find ways to cut through the white noise and get noticed,” says Ivan Misner, Ph.D., author of “Networking Like a Pro: Turning Contacts Into Connections.”
When done skillfully, networking can not only open the door to plum job opportunities but it can also help land new clients and tap talent for future hiring. And what better way to learn the ins and outs of such skillful networking than to go straight to power networking pros for their tips on how to land on someone’s radar—and stay there.
Power Tip #1: Give Before You Receive
One of the biggest networking mistakes people make is jumping the gun when asking for a favor. One cardinal key of successful networking: Give before you can get.
“I can’t emphasize this enough—if you want to form a relationship with another person, you first need to show them how they’ll benefit,” says professional relationship development expert Keith Ferrazzi, author of “Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time.” “You usually bring a small gift to a dinner party, so why wouldn’t you offer a potential ally a token of generosity when you meet?”
And according to Ferrazzi, it needn’t be elaborate either. The gesture can be as simple as forwarding a relevant article or providing an introduction to someone who can further the person’s own interests.
So when can you comfortably turn the tables and ask for help? It’s a judgment call. But seeking favors too early can turn your contacts off—and risk damaging any positive collateral you’ve stored up. “People often say, ‘Hey, it doesn’t hurt to ask, right?’ ” Misner says. “But if you ask before you’ve established a relationship, then you are destroying the opportunity to cultivate one.”
So think of networking like a bank account—you have to make deposits and shore up social capital before making a withdrawal. Case in point: One of Misner’s contacts called him up every month or two to ask how his latest project was going and whether he could pitch in. After reaching out several times over a year, he told Misner he had a favor to ask. “I replied, ‘Yes!’ ” Misner says. “He hadn’t even told me what he needed, but he’d invested so much in our relationship that I was happy to do it.”