The Gracious Girl’s Guide to Networking | #WisdomforGrads

by Mindy Lockard on June 23, 2014

Join me in a little exercise!

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Visualize yourself standing on the edge of a cliff. It’s high. VERY high. You are getting ready to jump, and look down at a net. The net that is going to catch you.

What does that net look like?

Small, weak, and with a large hole in the middle?

I didn’t think so.

I assume that net is large, made of strong material, and tightly woven.

Because we want to survive. Right?

The same is true for our NETwork! The professional net we build has the potential to drastically improve our professional survival rate. Keeping in mind that a net isn’t a magic cape that turns all of our dreams into a reality with one swoop, building a strong net takes—you guessed it… WORK!

So here are a few of my favorite tips from The Gracious Girl’s Guide to NETworking, to help you understand how to put in the WORK to build a large and strong NET!

“W” What do you want to get out of networking? And we’re not talking free cocktails and pot stickers. The question concerns your long-term professional goals, and your answer will determine the strength and size of your net. Are you willing and wanting to put in the WORK necessary to create future success? Unfortunately, it’s not called NetFUN because the commitment to networking is about setting goals that will make you uncomfortable and challenge you out of your comfort zone. If your goals and the people you want to connect with make you nervous, you are in the right spot. So ask yourself…

– What are my long term goals?

– What do I need to do to connect with people who can advise me or speak wisdom as to how I can achieve those goals?

– What amount of time on a weekly/monthly basis am I willing to commit to make my net strong?

“O” Open yourself up to learning. Some of the best networking happens because we ask others to teach us. So often we think that by networking, we have to sell ourselves as the experts. But let’s be honest, there is very little humility in that. People are more apt to join our network and entrust their network to us if they feel we are humble and trustworthy. I learned early on that networking is about connecting with people and learning from them. It’s okay to say, “Tell me more about that…,” or “I’m researching XYZ and wondering if I might take 15 minutes of your time to ask you a few questions.” You will build a tight net if you genuinely reach out to connect with people and leave yourself open to learning, rather than try to “sell” them on you.

“R” Respect others. Showing up and on time is key, as nothing says your time isn’t as important as my time like running late. Even if that isn’t your intention. Another way to show a lack of respect is to be inattentive. Make sure that while you are with others, your non-verbal behavior communicates that you are engaged. Eliminate all distractions (cell phones, clocks, looking over their shoulder) so that you are totally free to connect with a firm handshake, eye contact, and active listening. Even if you are engaged in the most boring conversation EVER, find ways to stay engaged. Commit to learning about others. Less about you, more about others.

“K” Keep good records. Maintain a system for keeping up your network and always follow up. When you have the correct information, you are able to stay connected—from email to thank-you notes. Yes, thank-you notes are a very strong player in building a strong network. Although you may meet someone and feel your paths don’t necessarily fit in at that moment, you never know when his/her path might be one you are interested in following. Having him/her in your network will prove to be helpful. Not being able to find the contact information, is, well…not so helpful.

There you have it! The WORK in networking. Drop a note below or on Facebook (from 6/24 to 6/27), telling me about the best networking advice you’ve received, and enter to win this beautiful Sheaffer Sagaris Brushed Chrome Featuring Gold Tone Trim Rollerball. Retail value is $60.00.

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May the networking force be with you. And for more on our #WisdomforGrads series, visit…

Monday: Crane & Co

Tuesday: Me

Wednesday: Today’s Nest

Thursday: Letters from Lauren

Friday: Meredith Heron -Sashay Design Blog

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