The Key to Successful Networking
By Marty Nemko
I want to share with you the two-minute lecture I give my career counseling clients on successful networking.
Most often, the key to successful networking is to create deep connection, connection deep enough that the person will be eager to maintain contact with you. Limit yourself to small talk and you risk becoming part of that person’s data smog—the immense amount of forgettable input they receive each day.
If you use the following technique, you can often create quite a deep connection in a first meeting, even if it’s just a few-minute exchange during a coffee break, and even you don’t think of yourself as a naturally good networker.
Of course, this approach, like all approaches won’t work with everyone. Electrons behave predictably; humans don’t. But when day is done, this technique should result in more success and more meaningful relationships.
The key is to get to discuss your partner’s passion or problem. How do you do that? With probing questions: Start with work: for example, "What do you do at work?" Listen carefully. Often his answer will reveal a passion or hint of a problem. That hint may be as subtle as his tone of voice dropping as he describes what he does. If he reveals a passion or a hint of a problem, ask a follow-up. In the previous example you might say, "Sounds like maybe your work isn't so thrilling." Keep listening carefully. When the person runs out of what to say, before asking another question, which could make the person feel interrogated, try to express empathy. In the above example, you might tell about your employee from hell. Then, you might ask another question or two to better understand his situation and perhaps gently guide him to a solution.
If your initial question about work doesn't suggest a passion or problem to discuss, move to a question about her family, for example, "Do you have a family?" Again, listen very carefully for a sign of a passion or problem. If that yields nothing, move to outside-of-work interests, for example, "Outside of work, what do you spend a lot of time on?" That can reveal such things as a home remodeling project that she loves or is a pain, or a health problem.
When you’re ready to end the conversation but would like to continue the relationship, you might say something like, "I've enjoyed our chat. I wouldn’t mind continuing the conversation some time. What do you think?"
People love to talk and
too rarely are listened to carefully about what’s important
to them. As Fran Leibowitz says, only half joking, “There is
no listening. There’s just waiting for the other person to
stop talking.” So, if you listen carefully to a person
talking about his passion or problem, you increase the chances of
that person wanting to befriend you or help you. And at minimum,
you’ll have had a more rewarding experience than if your
conversation focused on the weather.
© Marty Nemko 2004-2013. Usage Rights