Guest Column

Ten tips for successful professional networking

By Donna Fisher

How about a fresh look at internal networking — creating a world of contacts that give you more knowledge, more opportunity? None of us is as smart as all of us, so we need to get to know each other better: Professionally and personally. These are the "how to’s" of developing a networking approach to your job:

1. Give up the Lone Ranger mentality.

Some people have the misconception that it is a weakness to rely on others. Start creating a circle of colleagues who are good at what you are not: Not to substitute for your weaknesses but to reinforce and learn in those areas where you have no knowledge or inclination.

2. Honor your relationships.

Networking opens communication lines. What are those little things you can pass along that may help others? What goes around comes around. The more you give, the more others want to give in return. Never take advantage of a relationship. People tire of a mooch.

3. Acknowledge others with a simple thank you.

A genuine congratulations. A note of appreciation. Do you realize that acknowledgment and encouragement are the most valued yet underutilized tools today? And it doesn’t cost that much to give. Do you want to look good? Brag on someone else’s work.

4. Send a note today.

Get some 5-by-7 note cards within the next 24 hours, and dare yourself to write, or e-mail, one note a day. Two lines will suffice. Send it to someone who wouldn’t be expecting it. "Just thinking about how much help you were on the task force." "Hope you are doing well at X." "I appreciate your support." "Give me a call."

5. Manage yourself as a resource.

What are your needs? What are your values? What are important things about yourself? What are you looking for? How do you want to interact? If you get a handle on these, you can do a better job of moving toward your goals.

6. Take initiative.

Get the flow going in terms of communication and understanding more about your co-workers and your organization. Don’t wait for other people to come to you. Use the 3-foot rule: If someone is within 3 feet of you, find out something about them. It grows your scope of friends.

7. Ask for what you want.

If there is some help you are looking for, be specific and direct. Don’t make the other person guess what you need. Avoid asking close-ended questions that can be answered with a yes or no. If the person cannot help you, then ask, "Who do you recommend?"

8. Expand your horizons.

Make it a goal to develop 50 close contacts. These contacts could include co-workers or people from local businesses or insurance plans. The more you have, the broader your base for understanding the world around you.

9. Follow the Golden Rule of networking.

Give unto others as you would have them give unto you. It has a boomerang effect. If you are continually taking, others will quickly know. If you are a natural giver, you will have an army of anxious friends ready to return the favor.

10. Make networking a way of life.

Make your giving-attitude a skill. Be sure you don’t make the mistake of not asking for help because they may say no. Don’t decide for the other person. It may be their pleasure to help. You may be shutting down a valuable association that would have a lasting benefit into the future.

Printed with permission of Donna Fisher, author of Power Networking and People Power. For further information, contact: Donna Fisher, 6524 San Felipe, #138, Houston, TX 77057. Telephone: (800) 934-9675. World Wide Web: http://www.donnafisher.com.