10 Simple Things My Dad Taught Me About Networking
It’s often said that whether or not we like it, we end up morphing into our parents as we grow older. I was fortunate to have my dad role model for me some really critical lessons about the power of being a connector and master networker, and I'd like to share his top lessons with you:
Always remember birthdays. My dad taught me the value of remembering things that are going on in other people’s lives. One thing he does is makes it a habit to calendar the birthdays of the important people in his network and send them a snail mail card each year. This is generally dozens of cards a month and it makes a lasting impression.
Be a connector. Looking out for how you can leverage your contacts to help others is the foundation of being a connector. It’s about giving without the expectation that you will get something in return.
Look at the world as a puzzle. Whether you’re speaking with your friend or person you met at an event, listen carefully to what they’re telling you. Are they expressing concern or frustration about something? Have they expressly mentioned a need? Is there someone in your network with whom you could connect them to help or move them forward on their journey in life? Look at the world like a puzzle, using your network to connect others to help both parties advance.
There aren’t six degrees of separation…there are two, you just have to think hard about how to get there! This builds off of lesson number three. It’s easy to visualize now when you look at tools like LinkedIn that document for you how many degrees of separation exist between you and someone with whom you’d like to connect. The statistic is technically that there are 4.74 degrees of separation, but thinking of it as two simply served as a perspective shift for me on the power of your connections.
It’s not necessarily what you know, but whom you know. Think back to the last time you needed something intangible and how you got it. Getting a job is certainly easier if you know someone. Closing that big deal goes more smoothly when someone refers you. The examples go on and on. Certainly what you know is not to be discredited entirely, because once you get in the door, you have to back it up with something. But, would you have gotten in the door without a connection? Or would it not be a boost to have had someone singing your praises before you arrived?
Do talk to strangers. My dad is the king of striking up a conversation with anyone, especially his plane seatmate. He’ll know your life story by the time the flight lands and in all likelihood, you’ll have an email in your inbox within 24 hours connecting you to someone who will be of value to you. He is never out for anything for himself in these chats; he rarely even tells the other person much about himself. But, he’s been able to gift the power of his network to countless people over the years simply by saying hello and asking questions.
It’s all about your follow-through. If you don’t follow up, send a thank you, do what you said you’ll do or keep in touch, a relationship falls flat.
Being on time is late; 5 minutes early is on time. A big part of networking is what happens after an initial meeting and the impression you make. Part of that is being respectful of someone else’s time by arriving early.
Relationships often pay dividends years down the road. If you can do something for the people you meet right away, that’s a bonus. But sometimes, it takes years to find that opportunity. Either way, a relationship in itself has value.
Never underestimate the power of someone's rolodex (or CRM, LinkedIn contacts, or whatever other modern-day version you prefer). Being kind to someone could result in their singing your praises or connecting you to someone who becomes a great influence. Being unkind, cold or selfish could result in the opposite -- never, ever burn bridges.
Finally, a bonus tip: Use proper grammar and dress the part during meetings. Both contribute to the impression you’re making and the way you carry yourself. Thank you, Dad, for all the valuable lessons that have served me well as an adult.
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This article was originally published on Forbes.