6 Rules For Networking Without Feeling Sleazy
The following is an excerpt from the book Work Your Money, Not Your Life by Roger Ma, a Certified Financial Planner. Roger is a financial planner at lifelaidout and a publisher strategist at Google. He was named one of InvestmentNews’ “40 Under 40” in financial planning in 2017, and one of the top 100 Most Influential Financial Advisors by Investopedia in 2018 and 2019. His advice has appeared in Bloomberg, CBS News, CNBC, and The Washington Post. You can learn more about Roger at lifelaidout.com. Below, Roger has interviewed six prominent business leaders for their advice on networking the right way.
Sometimes networking can feel icky, transactional, and self-serving — but it doesn’t have to be that way if you recast what your goal is.
In particular, I think that people are the most successful at networking when they perceive it as an opportunity to meet, learn from, and potentially help new people. With that in mind, consider these expert pointers to help you maximize the time and energy (and yes, money) you invest in networking.
Network all the time, not just when you need something.
“To be successful and understand what’s possible, you need to proactively reach out to people whom you don’t work with on a daily basis. Without those key contacts, it’s easy to become isolated in a situation where the very people who can help you get ahead — and who you can be the most helpful to — have no idea how good you are, what your true interests are, or, for that matter, that you even exist.” — Fran Hauser, former President of Digital at Time, Inc. and author of The Myth of the Nice Girl
“Determine your goals: Ask yourself what you are looking for from the relationships you hope to develop. Are you anticipating making contacts with a specific future employer? Meeting a new mentor who can provide career guidance or industry expertise? Meeting new people in your industry? Intentionally identifying your networking goals will help you structure the questions you want to ask, prepare your elevator pitch and determine requests you have for your contacts.” — Paul Wolfe, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Indeed
Learn, listen, and find shared interests.
“Instead of approaching networking like a nonpersonal business transaction, we should all practice what I like to call organic networking. “Organic networking” is when your only goal is to better understand that person’s experience and place in the world. This agenda-less approach is much more natural and you end up learning a lot more about the person. Approach all conversations as an opportunity to learn, rather than teach. Always remember to practice active listening, too. You’ll be surprised at how natural and easy the conversation is when you think of networking in this mindset.” — Richard Moross, CEO and Founder at MOO
“The best tip to build your network is to add value first. Do it before you try to make an ask or take value from someone you just met. An easy way to add value is to send someone an event or article they might be interested in with a short, personalized message. You could also host a simple gathering (like a cocktail party) to connect people in your town. Over time, as you build your network and develop a reputation as someone who offers value, your rewards will come.” — Nick Gray, Founder at Museum Hack
“The most important — and often missed — skill when networking, is what happens after any interaction. How many tattered business cards have you fished out of the bottom of your briefcase or laundry? The real work is being meticulous around capturing all the notes (even the small talk), prioritizing your relationships, and following through on anything you discussed or promised. Simple to understand, but hard to implement.” — Zvi Band, CEO and Co-Founder at Contactually
Clarify your value.
“Always give that person a specific reason that you are a great fit or a worthy contact. If you aren’t going to invest in the personal message and positioning, then you aren’t worthy of a response. Keep it short and specific, and show that you really understand the role of the person that you are seeking to connect with.” — Antonia Hock, Vice President at The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center
Generally, most of us think of networking as a self-serving way to get others to do things for you, but in practice, networking is about building a community of support and offering that support others. If you change your mindset around networking, your approach doesn’t have to feel icky. Ultimately, it’s simply about connecting with your peers.
Roger Ma is a financial planner at lifelaidout and a publisher strategist at Google. He was named one of InvestmentNews’ “40 Under 40” in financial planning in 2017, and one of the top 100 Most Influential Financial Advisors by Investopedia in 2018 and 2019. His advice has appeared in Bloomberg, CBS News, CNBC, and The Washington Post. You can learn more about Roger at lifelaidout.com.
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