If business leaders made a list of terms used a lot but worked on a little, networking would come in first. I like to think of networking as sort of a cosmic AirBnB: “Have a spare minute that I can rent?” Or maybe early eBay: “I’ll trade you my bit of knowledge on marketing for your bit of knowledge on accounting.”
Pundits like to use the phrase “sharing economy.” Well, it's really a micro exchange economy and networking is how these exchanges get arranged. So how can you network more efficiently?
1) The more people you know, the easier it is to network.
Makes sense, doesn’t it? But we usually don’t think of professional networking that way.Most people have two categories: friends and business contacts. Yet, the best business contacts become friends. And friends often become business contacts. Increase your list of both.
When you are in a new situation, introduce yourself to people you don’t know, not people you do. All of us instinctively scan the room for a friendly face and then bound over to what our mind thinks is “safe,” someone we can trust. While that is understandable, it isn’t how you meet new people. And the key to good networking is starting with a large base.
2) Cultivate before you ask.
Nothing irks me more than to briefly meet someone only to find an email the next morning: ”Bob, great to meet you—can we talk about a problem I have?” How come no one writes, “Bob, great to meet you. Know you’re a golf fan, thought you’d enjoy this article by golf instructor John Hobbins.” (Guess which approach is more likely to lead to a real exchange of information or something of value?)
3) At this moment in time, LinkedIn is the starting point for many careers.
Make sure your profile reflects exactly what you think will interest people in learning more about you. Most LinkedIn profiles focus on achievements without enough emphasis on what makes the author special and what makes them interesting. Remember, it is an exchange economy.