Networking 101: Fitting Networking Into Your Schedule

Submitted by SharpMan Editorial Team on Sunday 10th October 2010
In this article
  • Networking through organizations.
  • Making every meeting count.
  • Fitting networking into your schedule.
Networking 101: Fitting Networking Into Your Schedule

In this latest installment in SharpWork’s ongoing series on networking, we provide information on how to make networking part of your busy schedule, and how to maximize on every networking opportunity. For more information, don’t miss Networking 101: "Working" a Networking Event, Networking 101: Remembering Names and Networking 101: Introducing Yourself with Punch.

You’ve heard it before: networking is a necessary tool for increasing visibility and business contacts. The good part is that it's inexpensive, time-effective and has more of a social tone than traditional business "prospecting." The essential goal of networking is always the same: reach as many people as possible and make every connection count.

The bad part? When do you find the time to fit it in? With increasing "billable hour" requirements and other personal commitments, how does the average SharpMan find time to market himself? Check out these SharpWork tips:

Join at least two organizations.

Lynne Waymon, author of Smart Networking: How To Turn Contacts Into Cash, Clients and Career Success, and a longtime networking researcher, suggests beginning your networking career by joining two groups:

  1. an organization of your peers, and
  2. an organization related to your target market.

"Networking is building up a stable of professional and personal friends who know you. Everyone is a potential member of a group in about six different arenas: family, possibly a church or religious organization, an alumni association, trade or industry group, hobby group, sports team or children's organization," Waymon says.

"With both your peer and target market organizations, you can gain referrals through [your] connections and learn about trends and referral sources in your community."

Stay active in groups to create your own "name recognition."

Once you’ve joined your two groups, make a point of being active within them. Increase your name recognition within the group by volunteering to do something for your group — the group newsletter, a group mixer, anything that allows you to come in contact with other members and to keep your name and what you do out there and circulating. The point? People do business with the people they know, and when a need arises, so will your name.

Remember: "everyone counts" in networking.

Think you never meet anyone good? Think again. Remember that everyone counts in networking. Regardless of whether your new contacts are in your field of business, public policy director Heidi Brennan found that, "You can discover new contacts and ideas from the person you sit next to at the church picnic or in your child's dentist office, someone sitting across from you at the bank or your wife's business associate. What matters is being interested and sharing your ideas: what you like, do or are interested in. Don't worry about trying to sell yourself. If you are genuinely interested and share your thoughts with people, new ideas and contacts are the natural result of being personally engaged with someone. Networking generates the unpredictable."

Prioritize networking as a vital task in your schedule.

Rather than putting networking off again and again, set aside time in your schedule specifically for increasing and maintaining your contacts. Networking should be a separate line item with time set aside for it and it alone on each week’s agenda.

Attending organization meetings is a good start, but keep your contact ball rolling by scheduling in one "new business" lunch every week. Make it your goal to schedule in someone whom you just met — anyone in or out of your industry. You’ll be surprised by whom you’ll get to know in your attempts to "meet your goal" each week. And you may be more surprised by the information you’ll pick up from the most unexpected of sources.

For the truly ambitious, make it your goal to have two networking lunches every week: one with a new contact and a second maintenance lunch with an existing contact.

Set up a professional advisory group.

Why not start a niche networking group of non-competing professionals willing to swap ideas and management advice? Robert Cohen, owner of New Vision Promotional Group, a distributor of advertising and promotional products in Canton, Massachusetts, founded The Business Network five years ago. The group is composed of a 14 entrepreneurs from noncompetitive companies offering business services. The group meets weekly.

Cohen says, "We literally network with other business people. We discuss leads and the needs of our clients, maintaining confidentiality in some situations. Then we coordinate efforts to assist our clients. The other members are all out referring me to their clients. In turn, my clients know I am constantly networking, and call me for referrals on services I don't offer, knowing it's likely someone in my network will. I feel that this demonstrates real trust on the part of both my clients and [my] network, along with the power of networking."

For more information on networking, check out SharpWork’s Networking 101: "Working" a Networking Event, Networking 101: Remembering Names and Networking 101: Introducing Yourself with Punch.

Networking at Mixers, Seminars and Conventions:

  • Wear your nametag on your right shoulder. When someone shakes your hand, his or her line of sight will be your right shoulder.
  • Make sure your nametag has big letters.
  • Eat early. It's hard to eat and mingle. Get your fill when you first arrive so you are free to shake hands, talk without spitting food, and work the crowd effectively.
  • Do not smoke unless you're speaking with another smoker and are in a room full of smokers.
  • If you attend a business meeting with a friend or associate, split up. It's a waste of time to talk, walk or sit together.
  • If you know no one, stand in the food or bar line. That way, you'll always have at least two people to talk to: the one in front of you and the one in back of you.
  • Don't be afraid to go up to another lost soul, extend your hand, smile and introduce yourself.
  • Be happy, enthusiastic and positive. Don't grumble or lament your tough day. People want to do business with a winner, not a whiner.
  • Don't butt in. Interrupting can create a bad first impression. Stand close by, and when a pause or opening appears, jump in.
  • Know when to cut bait. Don't hang around someone who is of no possible use to you.
  • Even if you’ve made a good contact, let him or her mingle. Shake hands and move on to the next person.
  • Stay until the end. The longer you stay, the more contacts you make.
  • After the seminar or convention, follow up good contacts with a letter or phone call — immediately.
This article last updated on Sunday 10th October 2010
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