I recently ran across an article with a really catchy title, “Don’t be a Networking Frog.” It took me a minute to realize that this was a reference to the fairy tale of the Princess and the Frog and the idea that you have to “kiss a lot of frogs” before you meet your prince. The article is intended to help you discriminate between people who can really help you and those who are just “frogs” (but I’m not recommending you kiss any of them!).
If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that I think networking is one of the most important things that you can do to start (or improve) your career. In fact, in my book, Step 4: Create a Network has 14 tips to help you build your network, making it one of the longest sections in the book!
The lessons in the “Don’t be a Networking Frog” article are valid: they’re all about give and take, listening to others to see if you can help them in addition to telling your story and trying to get their help. The author gives you 12 tips for figuring out how to recognize a frog, but you can also use that list to make sure that you don’t turn into a frog.
I’m going to focus on a few of those tips to help you enhance your networking skills:
- When you meet someone at a networking event, you want to be sure to tell them about your own plans and goals, but you should also ask them questions about themselves. The more you learn about them, the more likely it is that you’ll find areas that you have in common, and the more you have in common, the more memorable you become. When you’re memorable, networking is more likely to have better results. And while you’re talking and listening, be sure to make eye contact.
- If someone hands you a business card, read it; don’t just stick it in your pocket. Demonstrate your interest in them by using it as a basis for asking questions about their business, their profession, or even their location. Make notes about your conversation on the back of the card to help you remember them better.
- Ask if there’s anything you can do to help them. Perhaps you can introduce them to other contacts, provide information about your own experiences that can help them in their career or job search, or tell them about other networking events, workshops, or groups that you have found beneficial.
- If you meet someone who seems like a good contact, someone you want to stay in touch with, make a point to contact them again the next day. Send an email message or a text or make a phone call to tell them how much you enjoyed talking with them. If there’s a legitimate reason to spend more time together, ask to meet for lunch or after work—or perhaps request an information interview if they’re in a field you’re interested in learning more about. (See by book’s Tip 7. Conduct information interviews for advice about how to ask for and manage information interviews.)