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, so I’m here to share those with you!
#1 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!
#2 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.
#3 How to look at the world as a puzzle! Whether you’re speaking with your friend, person you met at an event, or on an airplane, listen carefully to what they’re telling you. Are they expressing concern or frustration about something? Have they expressly mentioned a need? Does their demeanor seem like a great fit to meet someone you know simply because they’d hit it off? Is there someone in your network with whom you could connect them to help or move them forward on their journey in life? This is how you look at the world like a puzzle, using your network to connect others to help both parties advance.
#4 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 #3 and really was a pivotal lesson for me growing up. It’s so visible 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 to get you to whomever you’d need in the world.
#5 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. Did you have to rely on someone and/or would it have made the process easier or more efficient if you had the right contact? Getting a job is certainly easier if you know someone. Finding the right mechanic is more manageable when you ask someone whom you trust. Closing that big deal goes more smoothly when someone refers you in. The examples can go on and on. Certainly what you know is not to be discredited 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, if you do get in the door on your own, would it not be a boost to have someone singing your praises before you arrived?
#6 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 as 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.
#7 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. Be sure to follow through!
#8 Being on time is late, being 5 minutes early is on time! A big part of networking is what happens after an initial meeting. It’s the interactions you have that follow and it’s critical to make a great impression. Part of that is being respectful of someone else’s time by arriving early.
#9 Relationships often pay dividends years down the road. My dad instilled in me that it’s about connecting with someone and not expecting something to happen that benefits either of you. If you can do something for them, that’s a bonus. But some times, it takes years to find that opportunity. But, it could be something really meaningful to them and on top of that, you’ve created a relationship over the years and that, in and of itself, has value.
#10 You never know whom someone knows. Never underestimate the power of someone’s rolodex (or CRM, LinkedIn contacts, or whatever other modern-day versions exist of a rolodex). Being kind to someone could end in their making a connection for you to someone of great influence in your life. It could mean that they go around town singing your praises, which is invaluable. Or, being unkind, cold, or selfish can result in their doing the opposite.
But wait—there’s more! Bonus tip #11: Use proper grammar! Know when to use ‘who’ vs ‘whom’, ‘I’ vs ‘me’, not to end a sentence in a preposition, and other important grammar rules. These contribute to the impression you’re making and the way you carry yourself. #11a: Dress the part. Always look neat, put together, and modern. Even my dad would tell you to get a manicure and be well groomed! And a final free gift: Bonus #12: Don’t burn bridges! We live in a connected world and your reputation doesn’t exist in a vacuum (for better or worse). Make graceful exits from jobs or relationships. Don’t let your ego or negative emotions get the best of you.
Thanks Dad for all the valuable lessons that have served me well as an adult! It’s my hope that you’ll take some of my dad’s lessons and utilize them as you continue to master the art of networking.