1. Check your attitude. Reframe any negative beliefs you have toward networking so you can embrace the process. If you think networking is boring, come up with a way to make it fun and interesting for yourself. What can you believe about networking that will make it an activity that you enjoy?
2. Be interested rather than interesting. Reorient around adding value first in networking by offering people useful information. What do you have that will add value to others?
3. Don’t wait until you need a network to start creating one. Build your foundation and create a networking engine that is always well tuned. Describe your current network.
4. Stay in touch. Contact your network on a revolving basis rather than just when you need something. Avoid calling someone after a year just to ask for something – you wouldn’t like it and neither will they. What are some of the ways that you can stay in touch with your network?
5. The best networking is about building relationships. It’s about who you are and how you can mutually benefit. How can you build relationships with the people you already know and those you would like to meet?
6. Be prepared. Decide on the outcomes you want from a networking event then make a plan, take some notes, and follow up with anyone you said you’d contact. What are some of the networking activities and groups you would like to attend? What would you like to gain from these experiences?
7. Target networking opportunities that best fit your needs and personality rather than going to all of them. Save time and aggravation by carefully considering which venues and events best suit your desired outcomes. If you’re not a morning person, skip the networking breakfasts. Seek out gatherings associated with the people you want to meet. Attend smaller events if you’re not comfortable with the bigger ones. Host an event if you like to stay in control. What is your networking style (i.e. the ideal networking times, places, activities, group size, etc. that best suit your personality, schedule and comfort zone)? The goal here is to allow yourself to be at your best when networking.
8. Creative networking. Network everywhere with everyone. Start to see the long grocery line in a new way. Perhaps there are people at your gym or church that would be perfect for your network. What are the nontraditional networking opportunities in your life?
9. Quality not quantity. Center on Centers of Influence (COIs). These are key people who have large networks. Once they respect and wish to help you, you have access to everyone they know. Who are the Centers of Influence that you would like to meet? What strategy will you use to get to know them? For example, you might invite a center of influence to lunch or coffee so they can get to know you.
10. Accentuate your value. In an earlier exercise you listed the value that you bring to your network. Now consider who will most appreciate that value. Direct your networking activities toward those people who will most gain from and acknowledge the value that you have to offer. Who will benefit most from knowing you?