Career Planning

Professional Networking:

The Essential/ Golden Rules and the Seven Deadly Sins of Networking

The vast majority of business opportunities come from who you know, not what you know.

Networking’s Essential/ Golden Rules:

1. Plan thoroughly: Ready, Aim, Fire (not the other way around!)

2.  Give before you Get

Make sure that your marketing materials are ready which includes your profile/ brand positioning sound bite, your resume, your business cards and make sure that you have populated the major professional networking sites with your professional profile.  Treat any networking opportunity as you would an important meeting. For example, who do you particularly want to speak with? What do you want to achieve?  Have your marketing arsenal prepared: your brand positioning, who you are, what you want to do and how you want the person you are speaking with to help you, your business cards with your contact info and perhaps a branding statement or your career goals on the back side.  If you are giving before you ask, if you are sincerely interested in the qualities and accomplishments of the individual with whom you are speaking, your target audience will sense it, will feel it viscerally and you will be significantly more efficient and effective in your communication.  If you have prepared properly and are sincerely interested in the qualities and accomplishments of the individual with whom you are speaking, you will be implicitly conveying that you have respect for, understanding of, and value that individual.  This is both a core attribute of all “Level Five Leaders” and a key component of successful professional networking.

The preparation and the Planning:

The Elevator pitch or the appropriate sound bite  This should be a concise 30- or 40-second description of yourself and what you do. This will make it easier to break the ice and make the first move – something that others may be too shy to do.  It should also give your audience a clear picture of who you are and what you want to do and if the time is appropriate (and you have given before you ask), what you would like the person to do for you.  This is greatly facilitated by crafting your career plan and having done your aptitude and strength assessments as well as identifying where you want to take your career and where you want to build a thought leadership position (vertical or horizontal thought leadership position).

Be prepared. Know what you are seeking and how you may want others to help you. Prepare a succinct, easily understood pitch - as a response to the inevitable question 'what do you do?'   If you are very efficient in your statement of who you are, what you want to do (and how that person might help you), you will be far more effective. We all have limited bandwidth and the more narrowly and efficiently you are able to craft your message, the more likely you will empower that individual with an understanding of the above.

Business Cards: Have your business cards and a pen with you and have them in a place where you can find them and hand them out effortlessly, gracefully.  When you receive a card and hand over yours, take a moment to write on the back the date, occasion and something from your conversation.  Don’t be afraid to write what you are looking for or how you want to position yourself on the back of your card if it is not already printed there.

Post your profile to professional networking sites. Simple packaging really matters. Successful networking is based on marketing 101: Understand your target market’s wants, needs, priorities and craft your presentation and your brand positioning accordingly.  Make sure that you are consistent throughout all online information resources.  Make sure that you can be easily found and that you have crafted your presentation, your brand positioning to have the greatest positive impact on your career plan.  The Web demands greater awareness of how your actions and your positioning will affect your acceptance and career, it demands more care, organization, scrutiny and maintenance. Web 2.0 and 3.0, at its core, is all about very targeted marketing.

Dress for Success: Dress as you would for a regular job interview. In professional networking or job-hunting, first impressions are critical. Remember, you are marketing a product -- yourself -- to a potential employer, and the first thing the employer sees when greeting you is your attire;  you must make every effort to have the proper dress for the type and level of job you are seeking. Dressing properly will give you a competitive edge and a positive first impression. You are judged by your appearance. Throughout the entire job-seeking process employers use short-cuts -- rules of thumb -- to save time. With cover letters, it's the opening paragraph and a quick scan of your qualifications. With resumes, it is a quick scan of your accomplishments. With the job interview, its how you're dressed that sets both the comfort/ acceptance level as well as the tone of the interview.

Body language
You only have a moment to make a good impression. Make sure you are dressed appropriately and that you are well groomed, no matter what the situation.  A confident handshake and smile will help you come across as friendly and professional.  Smile and mix!  If you see someone standing alone, bring them into your conversation.  If you see three in conversation, don’t be afraid to join in.  If you see two in a concentrated conversation, wait for another opportunity.

Open-ended questions
These should help engage the other person and promote conversation. Networking is the effective use of one mouth and two ears.  What works is a rounded, honest and curious perspective. Be a good listener, but ask the right questions and then listen properly to the answers.

Mind your manners
Never complain about your job or colleagues, and definitely don’t drink too much. This will make you stand out for all the wrong reasons.

Graceful exits
Exits are often overlooked as people focus on starting a conversation. Prepare a few skilful exit opening remarks to give you the opportunity to move on and speak with others if the conversation or the areas of interest aren’t what you are seeking.

Be open - to new ideas, opportunities and people. There could be answers and magic in everything and everyone. If you attend a networking event in a predatory or self absorbed mood, people will avoid you. Predatory is deeply unattractive. You are there to enjoy yourself, meet people and share interesting (and potentially useful) information which could include knowledge, expertise and contacts.

Choose your networking groups. Pick groups that spark your interest and may help you get what you are seeking. Many formal networking groups will allow you to visit before joining up. Don’t be afraid to challenge the account managers or the business developers to show you how well they are oriented to facilitating business growth/advancement and professional networking. If you have done your research properly and have targeted the right groups, every single person in attendance can be a significant resource for you.

Give before you get or give before you ask. Do not give with the sole purpose of getting something back. Networking is a two way street.   If you give before you ask, you will significantly increase the likelihood of your getting valuable input from your audience.

Treat everyone as equals. Value is in the information and support people can give, and that often comes from surprising sources. Give before you ask.  A network is a level and fair playing field. Come to the networking process with the desire to discover the unique talents and interests of each person you meet.

Be courteous. Listen to others when they speak. Don't monopolize the conversation. Get to the point quickly. Thank the people who have helped you.

Circulate. Try to identify the people you are most interested in meeting. Maneuver to meet them. Talk with as many people as you can at a networking event. Establish identities, needs, goals and resources. Handle detailed discussion at a later date. Take notes on business cards.

Follow through quickly and efficiently on referrals you are given. When people give you referrals, your actions are a reflection on them. Respect and honor that and your referrals will grow. Call those you meet who may benefit from what you do and vice versa. Let them know that you enjoyed meeting them and ask if you could get together and share ideas.  Create a Google alert on the person, their company and competitors and the industry trends.  Use this information as leverage in your follow-up/s.


The Seven Deadly Sins of Networking:

Many people don’t understand the basics of being a good networker and commit one – or all – of the seven deadly sins of networking. Please avoid these pitfalls when you’re working the room.

Sin 1: Self absorption  There is nothing more distasteful than meeting someone who is self absorbed.  Networking at events should be a conversation, not a monologue. Ensure you ASK questions of others before you talk about yourself. By asking questions and being interested in them, you are not only learning about where there might be opportunities for your business, but you are also making them feel good. And if people like you, they’re more likely to do business with you or provide you with referrals.

Sin 2: Rudeness  It is never acceptable to be rude and it is just plain stupid to be rude to people you don’t know.  Treat others as you’d like to be treated yourself.

Sin 3: Greed  Always give something BEFORE you ask for something.  If you lead with a sincere attempt at giving something then you always significantly increase your chances of receiving something valuable in return. This can be a simple compliment and the greater your depth of knowledge and sincerity, the better.  The more you ask before giving, the less likely you will receive a satisfying response.  As in all business, your time and energy invested is judged by its ROI.

Sin 4: Assumptions  When you are at events, don’t assume that a person will be of no use to you and thus choose not to speak with them. The person who seems to have no relevance to you or what you do may be a hidden gem

Sin 5: Shyness  You are there to meet people. So get out there and talk. Walk up to complete strangers and introduce yourself.  If you’re at a networking function, people EXPECT to meet new people. It’s a safe environment.  Don’t stick with people you know and don’t talk to just one other person throughout the event. Plan to meet one person per 10-15 minutes at an event. This is enough to connect a little more deeply but still make the most of your networking opportunity.

Sin 6: Laziness  Remember to follow up. It doesn’t take long to send an email the next day saying it was nice to meet and make a reference to something you discussed. If you have specifically promised some information, you must also be sure to follow up with this promptly. Leave it longer than a day and you will forget but the other person will be left with a poor impression of you.  Bring a pen and jot a note on people’s cards when you leave, so that you don’t forget who they are/what they do/what they discussed.  Finally, you should also RESEARCH the events you are planning to attend, to ensure that not only a speaker suits your needs but that the crowd is likely to be one you can happily mingle with.  Some online invitation programs such as eVite let you see who is coming and even allow you to share comments and begin networking prior to the event.

Sin 7: Forgetfulness

Business cards: TAKE THEM WITH YOU

Building a Professional Network: Do’s and Don’ts of Building Business Relationships

Do’s of Building Business Relationships:

  1. Give before you ask
  2. Look for the potential in others
  3. Look for areas or ways that you can help the person you are speaking with.
  4. Be a listener that really wants to hear; listen with the heart.
  5. Accept responsibility for all your choices.
  6. Be an encourager; look for ways to promote others.
  7. Have a desire to contribute or help others you connect with.
  8. Ask penetrating and follow up questions to elicit emotional wants and needs.
  9. Keep a contact management system of names, numbers, conversations, to-do’s, accomplishments, testimonials, thank you notes, etc.
  10. Be a “go-giver,” give your time, talent and helpful ideas to others.
  11. Treat others the way they want to be treated.

Don’ts of Building Business Relationships

  1. Don’t ask before you give.
  2. Don’t be self-centered; focusing only on your needs and wants.
  3. Don’t jump into your 30 second elevator speech or 60 seconds product or service presentation before first building rapport and identifying shared values
  4. Don’t do most of the talking when in conversation with a prospect.
  5. Don’t be impatient with methodical and detail-oriented people.
  6. Don’t just listen to reply.
  7. Don’t be a business card dropper; build rapport before and/ or after you exchange cards.
  8. Don’t forget to periodically follow up with prospects, clients and associates.
  9. Don’t make promises you can’t keep and keep the promises you do make.
  10. Don’t participate in negative “pity-parties.”
  11.  Don’t blame others, don’t complain, don’t be negative.


Give sincerely before you get or give sincerely before you ask: Reasons why emotions matter in personal interactions and in your brand positioning:

People feel before they rationalize something.  Emotions are more immediate and act as a gatekeeper.  Believability is based on a gut feeling. Emotional connections help jump the fear of being taken advantage of and emotional connections lay the ground work for trust and loyalty.

If you are giving before you ask, if you are sincerely interested in the qualities and accomplishments of the individual with whom you are speaking, your target audience will sense it, will feel it viscerally and you will be significantly more efficient and effective in your communication.  If you have prepared properly and are sincerely interested in the qualities and accomplishments of the individual with whom you are speaking, you will be implicitly conveying that you have respect for, understanding of, and value that individual.  This is both a core attribute of all “Level Five Leaders” and a key component of successful professional networking.

Friends and professional connections are social currency.  Friends and your professional connections are your currency and a key to your reputation. Choose them well, online, as elsewhere, it's all about reputation, whether you're on Facebook, LinkedIn, Ziggs, TheLadders, etc., People are as judgmental online as in real life.

Your life is your résumé. In an Internet-information access dominated world, your résumé and your accomplishments as well as your foibles are always in play, even when you don't know it.  The accessibility of your information makes all of us accountable and that information will follow us forever.  Rest assured that you will be Googled prior to any meeting.


A few General Professional Networking sites:

LinkedIn                       Ziggs

Spoke                          Doostang

TheLadders                   Xing

Ryze                             Orkut

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