I went to lunch with three brilliant women the other day, and we talked about a bunch of things. Some of us knew at least one other person at the lunch, but none of us knew all of us, as it were. So we shared a little bit about ourselves, and when I mentioned that I write and speak about networking, a funny thing happened: one of my lunchmates (the lady seated just to my left) said “The non-disgusting kind, of course.” It was a question, in statement form. Interesting that in this day and age, we have to specify that when we are interested in networking, it’s the non-disgusting kind. We all know what the disgusting kind looks like!
Here are my Top Ten Constant Networker Do’s and Don’ts:
- The Constant Networker does attend face-to-face networking events with the intention of meeting interesting new people and catching up with acquaintances. S/he doesn’t go to events with the goal or intention of dispensing x number of business cards, or limit his or her conversations in length (unless they’re conversations with those disgusting networkers) so as to maximize the number of new people met during the event.
- The C.N. does follow up with people he or she has met at events, and doesn’t ever follow up to say “Shall we have coffee so that I can tell you more about my business?”
- The Constant Networker does make introductions of interesting people s/he knows who could benefit by knowing one another; and doesn’t make introductions on a quid pro quo basis, a la ‘Who will you introduce me to if I introduce you to Joseph Blow?’
- The Constant Networker does reach out to people s/he doesn’t know, to suggest that the C.N. and the object of the overture might benefit from one another’s acquaintance; and because the Constant Networker knows that s/he is in some small way intruding upon the life of a busy person, s/he doesn’t ask “Shall we split the distance between our offices?” S/he who makes the overture, makes the drive.
- The C.N. does, if s/he likes, use online tools like LinkedIn to cultivate, keep track of and make connections among his or her network; the Constant Networker doesn’t misuse networking tools by, for instance, spamming strangers with invitations to connect, or forwarding messages like “Two-for-one special, this month only!”
- The Constant Networker does stay in touch with the people s/he is friendly with, but doesn’t add people to his or her newsletter list without asking, or, worse yet, construct a blast email message designed to resemble a personal communication (“I saw this article and thought of you”) and send it, with first names inserted via Mail Merge, to everyone s/he knows.
- The Constant Networker does join email groups and participate in them as s/he likes, but doesn’t misuse the goodwill of the other members by vigorously promoting his or her products or services.
- The C.N. does from time to time inquire as to the activities and welfare of his or her contacts, and is never so rude as to wait until s/he needs a favor, to do so.
- The Constant Networker does pride him- or herself on the wonderful qualities of the people s/he knows, and doesn’t value his or her network based on the number of people in it or, worse yet, their titles.
- The Constant Networker does do favors for the people s/he knows without being asked to, as often as possible; s/he doesn’t suggest, hint or (God forbid!) express outright the notion that s/he is likewise owed a favor. The Constant Network knows that never, in polite networking society, is one owed a favor. But that goes without saying.