I take part in Syracuse University's Newhouse Network Mentor Program. When each mentorhsip begins, the Newhouse team sends out the rules of networking. Some rules on this list may seem obvious, others are more insightful. But there's nothing wrong with brushing up on your networking skills, whether you're a junior breaking into the industry or someone more senior who has become set in their ways.
THE GOLDEN RULES OF NETWORKING
Produced by the Newhouse CDC and updated in April 2013
- NEVER, repeat, NEVER ask for a job. This is NOT networking. You can only ask for information, advice, expertise, opinion or another contact. As every good salesperson knows, “once price is on the table, all other considerations go by the wayside.” Do contacts know that you are looking for work eventually? YES. However, there’s a fine line.
- Ask people only for what they can easily and painlessly give. Ask for a job; I’ll send you to human resources. Ask for advice; I’ll give you 20 minutes (and possibly a job lead). Ask for an hour of my time; I cringe. Ask for 5 minutes; I might give you my morning.
- Have specific goals for each contact. Think about how each contact can help you. What is his/her position? What information can he/she share with you? Before calling or visiting, write down the things you want to learn or accomplish. If you can’t do this, you’re NOT ready to network!
- Respect people’s time. There are probably 10+ other things they could be doing. Keep contact time short and specific. Ask if they are on deadline – do not call news directors at 5 p.m. Your courtesy will reflect positively upon you!
- Be like a reporter – avoid asking yes or no questions. Yes or no questions only give you a 50/50 shot at best. Example: “Do you have any openings?” “No.” versus “What advice would you give someone who would like to work at XYZ?”...
- Always let the other person feel like the hero. Send a thank you; follow-up with him/her; let him/her know what happened, that the advice was helpful, etc. Follow-up is perhaps the most important part of networking.
- In any sales situation, it generally takes five to eight calls to get the order. What does this mean to you? Do no discourage easily. It may take multiple calls to get the information you need/want to find the person who can help you. Polite tenacity reads as enthusiasm.
- Most rules are made to be broken, even occasionally. You will have to make some of this up as you go along. If you discover the contact you called has left the company for instance, ask the person who answers the phone your questions. You will have to think on your own. But that’s what they’ll pay you for later...
Now go forth, and network wisely.