By Judith Gerberg and Kate Jarvis
Today more than ever, networking is a vital asset in everyone’s toolkit. Knowing how to approach work colleagues, acquaintances or alumni for anything from volunteering for a good cause to getting an appointment with the CEO, is an essential step to creating a successful and satisfying personal and work life. Career counselor Judith Gerberg notes that clients frequently ask about networking.
“Most think they don’t know how to do it. I assure them that they already know how to network. It really is a natural process. Effective ways to build rapport include comments such as ‘You have a great haircut, who did your hair? or Did you see the game last night?’”
I love what Ariel Hyatt (arielpublicity.com) suggests, “When you meet someone, first ask a question about them. ‘What brought you here today? How did you meet the bride?’ Get them talking.”
Gerberg is the director of a New York City-based career development organization who knows the value of effective networking. Since 1985 she and her team have been coaching clients through personal and professional transformation, which requires the development of strong networking skills.
People ask Judith how do you build a business? “I pray for grace, and I make 100 phone calls.”
Additionally, she offers the following advice:
Be open to giving and receiving. To be a networking star you need to be known as the hub of a network, someone people go to for information and contacts, or wisdom. You are the center of a wheel whose spokes radiate out, reaching and connecting with others to engage, empower and advance your joint goals and dreams.
Focus on the goal. Think about who you need to speak to and identify topics of discussion. What is it you need from your network connection? Information, resources or contacts? Decide on the intention of the meeting beforehand.
Engage and inspire. Open the conversation with an appealing introduction that will get the response, “Oh that sounds interesting, how can I help you with that?” Use enthusiastic statements to solicit your contact’s interest in promoting a successful networking exchange.
Demonstrate your interests. One of Gerberg’s clients worked in finance in Manhattan but adored film, spending her holidays attending festivals like the Sundance Film Festival. By investing in and learning about her passion through connecting with others, she ultimately secured a job in film finance in California.
Be patient. Gerberg assures clients that developing a network of support takes place over time. It is not usually effective to walk through a room and hand out business cards (unless you are an oboist walking into a room of chamber musicians who need an oboist!).
Build relationships. Once you’ve established contacts in your network, it becomes important to maintain the connections. Find ways to be useful to people in your network. Mention their work to others. Pass information along to them. Invite them to mutually beneficial meetings or events.
Being patient and creative, focused, and willing to assist your contacts with their own networking will lead to connections that produce results. Find a way of networking that is comfortable for you. With practice comes the fluidity, ease and confidence in speaking to others and managing the networking flow.