All of us engage in networking at some level. It’s a required skill, whether you’re building a business, looking for a new job or seeking new friends.
However, it’s a skill that’s rarely taught.
This column will tackle topics from remembering names to planning strategy, from business cards to creating genuine business relationships and everything in between.
Your questions are welcome and will be answered in this space or on my blog.
Social networking has altered the way we communicate. Exactly how much was brought home to me last week when I met someone at a business function and he said, “It was great to meet you, I’ll Facebook you to set up a meeting.”
Such a verb has become customary in social and business circles alike, unfortunately.
It seems social networking has become synonymous with business networking in some circles. However, in my opinion, these are two distinct lines that, while they may intersect at times, should not be blurred.
Had I met this fellow under different circumstances, perhaps at a friend’s dinner party or randomly in a restaurant, the suggestion of “Facebooking” to get in touch would be completely acceptable. But in a business situation, it is not.
As a person who has built a strong business network the old-fashioned way, my first instinct was annoyance because it meant I actually had to check my Facebook page. My second thought was that it was a cop-out to true business networking.
Expecting that logging onto a website and asking to be a person’s friend is an acceptable equivalent to beginning a professional relationship with a new contact, seems like a contradiction of intention. It’s setting the stage to be casual buds, not professional colleagues.
In business settings, business cards should be exchanged and the information on the card should be used to make the next connection.
Q: I want to start networking, how do I know where to go?
— LAURA, London
Dear Laura: Your best bet is to find a networking mentor. Call the three most connected people you know and ask them how they got their networking start.
What events, associations or activities do they suggest?
Be sure to share your intentions with them. Are you looking to find a new employer, increase client prospects or get involved in the community? Your answer may influence their suggestions.
You also can search local networking associations. Call the contact listed on the website, ask questions and attend a few association meetings before making any commitment.