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Tis the Season

Dec 1, 2015 | JSE Blog

Networking can be a much- loathed facet of business. The misery of mingling with a room full of strangers is enough to make many folks beeline for the safe harbor of the bar or the food table. Even the most extroverted of extroverts can conjure a memory of a networking event gone awry. If the social butterflies occasionally get uncomfortable networking, what hope is there for those of the more introverted ilk? Why do it to ourselves? Quite simply, because meeting new people is an important aspect of business. It’s a means of getting outside the confines of our offices and engaging with the business (and general) commu-nity at large. Just like people, no business is an island.

With Thanksgiving behind us, we’ve officially entered the throes of the holiday party season. In the coming weeks, many of us will be presented with opportunities to meet new people (both professionally and personally.) With the busy holiday social schedule in mind, we thought it an apropos time to address the idea of networking and provide some tips for how to make it a successful and (banish the thought!) enjoyable experience.

1. Be helpful. Many people attend networking events in the hope of making a contact that will benefit their business. We suggest turning the tables on that approach. How can you help other people succeed in their businesses? Talk with people, see what it is that they do- and not to create an opening to tell them about your business, but because you are genuinely interested. Maybe you or someone you know could use their service or product? Perhaps you know someone who could help solve a particular professional problem they’re facing? Nothing is as memorable as kindness, and one of the keys to business success is being remembered favorably by others.

2. Prepare. The secret to successful small talk is learning how to connect with another human being, not just talk with them. A sure fire way to help curb anxiety (and start the connection process) when attend-ing a networking function is to plan ahead and prepare some conversational icebreakers. Most people love to talk about themselves, their work, and their hobbies. Prepare open-ended questions like: “How long have you been a member of the Chamber?”, “Where are you from?”, “How do you know the host?” Now that New Yorkers are settling in for the long winter months ahead, it’s a great opportunity to ask your new acquaintance how he/she will be spending the season: skiing? Snowmobiling? Buried in a good book? Sipping umbrella drinks in Florida?

3. Bring a pen. When you’ve concluded the conversation, step away and jot down what you’ve learned on the back of their business card. The point of networking is to establish a connection and keep in touch. Is a new contact interested in fly fishing? Is he a World War II buff? Does your new acquaintance have a daughter studying architecture? Take note of those details and when you hear about a fly fishing course being offered by the DEC, read a review of a new book about Winston Churchill, or learn about a new internship program at your firm, jot them a note and let them know.

If the Shyness Research Institute is right, 88% of us feel some level of anxiety when confronted by a room full of strangers. Approaching the opportunity like a farmer, sewing seeds of friendships that will eventu-ally grow into business deals, is much more productive (and comfortable!) than approaching these events like a hunter- focused and looking to make a sale.

Networking for Introverts

“If you don’t build your dream, someone else will hire you to help them build theirs.” 

Dhirubhai Ambani, Indian Business Tycoon

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