Becoming a Master Networker

Identify yourself
Where do you get your energy? Are you more introverted and refueled by time in solitude? Or are you more extraverted and refueled by being around others? Knowing what drains and energizes you can help you to maximize your personality, a key ingredient in successful networking. Being authentic and understanding your temperament allows you to strategically plan which professional networking events are the best fit for you long term.

Consider the timing
Perhaps you have more energy to offer others early in the day rather than at night after you’ve dealt with people all day. Perhaps you prefer small groups to large crowds. Perhaps you really want an opportunity to be in the front and center of a room. Whatever the case, the more clarity you have about your temperament and the role you prefer, the more likely you are to notice and choose sustainable — and enjoyable — networking outcomes.

Set goals
Your goals will most likely be shaped by you and your company. The needs and wants of both parties must be clarified and realistic with regard to your current and future job roles. You may use professional networking to meet new clients, develop leads and referrals, increase your social and civic influence or for many other valid reasons. Whatever your desired outcome, the more clear you are in your purpose, the better you can measure success. Are you focused on the long term or short term benefits of your relationships? Are you focused on networking internally or externally? Formally or informally?

Take a personality assessment
There are scores of tests available to identify your basic personality drives and motivation. Those tests aren’t boxes to contain you, but frameworks to help you understand and articulate your temperament. Each personality type has strengths and weaknesses, especially in social situations. Knowing what you have to offer can increase your confidence in a professional networking context.

Be confident
It’s important to build on your natural foundation and strengths. This can keep you from being unrealistic or frustrated. Remember, networking is not about comparing yourself to others and wishing you were wired differently. Networking is about building relationships. Focus on what you offer best and grow from that point.

Get feedback
How do you actually view networking? What are your honest perceptions? Consider a friend or colleague who appears to have excellent networking skills - what is his or her perception of business networking? What are the similarities and differences? Recognizing the gaps in your perception will give you the opportunity to face growth directly, while talking to a trusted, socially savvy colleague may provide insight about how to approach your unique situation and networking goals.

Know who you know
Identify your existing sphere of influence. Audit your emails, social media, phone, business card holder, etc. Chances are you know at least a few people already. Go through those contacts and categorize them by priority to reconnect. This should tie back to your goals.

Know who you don't know – yet
Make a short list of people you need to meet. Make a longer list of people you want to meet. You can work with co-workers, friends, your boss — whomever —and stragically identify networking forums of common interest. You might already know someone who knows somebody on your list.

Remember the Golden Rule
Treat others the way you would want to be treated. Be honest. Smile. Follow through with your stated intentions. Vocalize your gratitude for others’ time and efforts. Keep in mind that you’re dealing with a human being, not a human doing. People are not a status. This can relieve any pressure to overcome insecurity or assumptions that someone wouldn’t want to talk to you. You’ve got to be a friend to make a friend.

Know what you shouldn't do when networking
Avoid the common faux pas:
-Asking too much
-Failing to return favors
-Lacking gratitude
-Bad breath or offensive odor
-Card blasting, a.k.a. bombarding people with your business card
-Losing touch
-Only approaching contacts when you need something
-Mistreating or disrespecting anybody
-Not listening
-Taking before giving
-Faking it
-Pretending you’ve already met
-Confusing networking with direct selling

Article Written By: Jacksonville Business Journal -