I wanted to write just a quick blurb about networking.
It's often discussed in business circles, but seems so crass.
Personally, I hate the term, but it does help if you understand how to build your group of business associates.
For what it's worth, here is a short list of things that I've seen help individuals build their business contacts over time.
1. Provide Value
The number one way you can begin building your connections with others is to figure out how to provide them value.
Here's the honest truth:
Our most precious commodity is time, and no one feels like they have enough.
For a person to take time out of their already busy schedule to get to know you, you have to be able to demonstrate that you are able to make it worth the investment of their most precious commodity.
This is especially true of those people who are "in demand" or "known" within their fields.
Find some way to add value to the work they're already doing and go from there.
2. Don't Oversell Yourself
If you're trying to build your network of colleagues and business associates, one of the worst things you can do is oversell yourself.
There is a huge temptation to initially try to impress people with your accomplishments, real or embellished, but don't do this.
If you oversell yourself, people will eventually find out over time and you will look foolish at best. At worst, you'll be seen as a fraud and your colleagues will feel deceived.
Be honest about your abilities and experience level.
3. Be a Person of Integrity
Being careful not to oversell yourself goes hand in hand with being a person of integrity.
What this means is simply that you show up for appointments with your associates, you act and speak in a professional manner about other colleagues and competitors, and you come through when you commit to an assignement.
Of course, having integrity is much more than those simple tasks above, but failing to do the basics often demonstrates a larger problem with a person's character.
Be above reproach in your business dealings and your current contacts will speak highly of you, often leading to new opportunities.
Act in a shady manner, and the direct opposite will happen.
Here's a very simple tip...
When you're with someone with whom you'd like to connect-- especially if that person is an "important" person in their field-- stop talking.
Abraham Lincoln once said, "I'd rather be silent and be counted a fool, than open my mouth and remove all doubt."
If you want to build connections with others, don't wax eloquent about all your opinions and insights. Listen to them and figure out how you can learn from them. You'll be better off for the learning and the other person will walk away thinking you're a brilliant conversationalist.
5. Don't be Too Familiar
After you do meet someone, don't be too familiar.
Nothing screams "desperation" more than a clingy person who is always around.
Don't waste a person's time with personal stories, long anecdotes, or constant contact.
If you do "click" with someone, give the relationship time to develop. There's a difference between a business associate and a friend, and over time you'll be able to determine which direction the relationship will go.
Many of my current friends I met through work and other "business" endeavors, but it always took time for the friendship to develop.
Be friendly, but not too familiar, with those you've recently met.