Networking is about creating an extended family. It's about developing connections, caring about people, increasing the size of your "tribe." Most of all, networking is not the awkward social ritual many of us think it is--networking is actually FUN!
Here are my top six networking essentials to rock your career and your life.
1. Practice "Palm Up" Networking. When you network, are you giving, or grasping? Palm up networking embodies the spirit of service, of giving and wanting nothing in return. When you network "palm down" you're grasping for personal gain. Palm up = heart-oriented interaction. Palm down = greedy grasping. Which attitude results in building relationships, providing value, and ultimately bestows benefits on both parties? You guessed it. The universe has a perfect accounting system. Give to others, it'll all come back to you in time.
2. Do Daily Appreciation. Appreciate at least one person daily. Sometimes I do this via e-mail so I can be thorough. And often, to my delight, the recipient will tell me that they are saving the message for when they need a pick-me-up. You can also express appreciation over the phone or in person. Simply tell someone how much you appreciate who they are, what they do, whatever about them moves you. They'll be flattered and you'll feel great.
3. Equalize Yourself with Others. I believe we all have one unit of worth, no more, no less. No one can add to it, no one can take it away. We're all equal. Just because someone is powerful, rich, famous doesn't mean they are better than you. Practice equalizing yourself with others--this will enable you to more comfortably interact with others, and to reach out to people of all walks of life.
4. Rolodex Dip. This is a fun practice when you want to connect with someone but aren't sure who. Flip through your contact database and pick a name. Then think of all the things you like about them. Now call them up to see how they are doing. They'll be surprised and delighted.
5. Pick a "Sensei of the Day": Each day I pick a sensei, a teacher. This is someone who has taught me a lesson or reminded me of something important in life. Your sensei can be a person, a pet, a plant, it doesn't matter. The important thing is to acknowledge that there is much to learn and you are being offered valuable lessons constantly.
6. Do the Drive-By Schmooze. Parties, conventions, groups of all sorts are great opportunities to network, but sometimes you'll be tired, not in the mood, or have too many events in one evening (like during holiday season!). This is when you'll want to use the Drive-By Schmooze. Here's how:
a. Timebox your networking. Decide that in 30 minutes you'll do a check-in to determine if you need to stay any longer.
b. Set your goal. Determine the number of new connections you want to establish. Remember, your goal is meaningful connections, not simply contacts.
c. Let your intuition guide you. OK, this may sound flaky, but it works! Stand near the door, in a corner, out of the way. Stop your thoughts. Internally ask to be guided to the people you need to connect with. Then start walking. You'll be amazed at who you meet.
d. Connect. You'll always resonate with someone at an event. When you do, ask questions about them, such as: How did you get started in your field? What's your ideal customer? We all love to talk about ourselves, and these questions will not only help you form a connection with this person, but will also tell you how to help them.
e. Offer help and follow through. If you can provide help, jot down ideas on the back of their business card, commit to follow up, and then do it. If you've had a fruitful conversation and want to take it further, offer to meet for lunch or coffee. People say life is 90% about showing up. Nonsense! Life is 90% about following through!
For more tips and helpful info on networking, see the Cool Resources section on www.RulesForRenegades.com.
Christine is author of the best selling book Rules for Renegades: How to Make More Money, Rock Your Career, and Revel in Your Individuality (available wherever books are sold). She's CEO of Mighty Ventures (www.MightyVentures.com), an innovation accelerator which helps businesses to massively increase sales, product offerings, and company value.