The New (Old) Rules of Networking

Making OutTonight I spoke at an undergraduate management class at Simmons College. I got my MBA at the Simmons School of Management not that long ago, so I was excited to work with the latest crop of students from the other side of the desk, as it were.

The topic was Professional Networking Online and Off.  Here’s the main gist of what I had to say:

The Rules Are The Same, Regardless of Venue

I don’t care if you’re trying to meet people at a job fair, a conference, a dinner party, or the laundromat. The basic “rules” that I try to follow are:

  • Focus on the person you’re talking to
  • Ask them about what matters most to them
  • Find out how you can help them
  • Help them

The problem with formal “networking” events is that these events practically force us to be on the make in one way or another, and let’s be honest, it stinks. Nobody likes being treated like a target, or a lead, but at professional networking events, that’s how we’ve all been trained to behave.

It’s All Just Relationship Building

If you’re a new business on Twitter, or Facebook, trying to generate interest in the goods and services you sell (or you’re trying to sell yourself as a job candidate online), the funny thing is that you should probably try talking about those goods and services (or yourself) on Twitter and Facebook very, very sparingly.

Here’s an idea of what to do instead:

  • Focus on the person you’re talking to
  • Ask them about what matters most to them
  • Find out how you can help them
  • Help them

We are naturally inclined to think well of those who find us fascinating. We tend to think that these people have really good taste. We might even get excited about what you have to sell.

But to go for “the sale” right away is like meeting somebody for the first time and trying to make out with them five minutes later. Does it occasionally work? Do you once in a while find somebody who wants to leave the party with your room key in their pocket?

Sure, it can happen. But you’ll end up alienating a whole lot more people in the process than you end up going home with.

Image by Kid Paparazzi

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