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Networking tip 6: Congratulate and compliment

Most of us mean well when it comes to praise and encouragement, but we often don’t follow through. Are you shy about such things, or afraid of coming across as a flatterer? Grit your teeth and do it anyway! When you hear something positive about someone, make a real effort to congratulate the person, no matter how long ago you may have had contact or how tenuous a relationship you might have had in the past.  (“I don’t know whether I mentioned it or not, but Harriet just raved about your presentation at the European conference. We all got fed up with hearing about it!”) Congratulating or complimenting someone makes that person feel special, and represents the single easiest way to establish—or improve—rapport. (How would you feel, if it were you?)

As an example, while I was still practicing law, I was mentioned one day in the cover story of a legal journal. A consultant I’d worked with a decade before sent me a copy with a congratulatory note. I felt so pleased that he’d remembered me and taken the time and trouble to acknowledge my accomplishment! Thanks to this friendly gesture, we reconnected, and I’ve since gone out of my way to provide him with beneficial contacts.   

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Networking tip 5: Use your people skills

The first place to start in cultivating your network is to concentrate on the number-one rule of human desire: Make others feel important and appreciated.

Second, be generous with your time and your efforts; think about how you can help the people in your network. This is not about keeping score (“Gosh, how they’ll owe me for this one!”)—instead, it’s a mindset you should apply to every person in your network—not just people you think might one day prove useful, but everyone. This is partly because business isn’t the be-all and end-all of a happy life, and partly because you want your networking skills to become instinctive, which will not happen if you choose to be selective about whom you treat well.

Notice that effective networking is not about fakery, charms, and wiles. Even an introverted person can learn to network, because it’s all about how we treat others. Every personality type is capable of going the extra mile! Admittedly, Connecters have an edge in the overall process, because their personality type is naturally social, but networking is about much more than going to parties. It involves genuine care for, and interest in, the people we meet when we get there. 

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Networking tip 4: Find common interests

We are all constantly looking for connections and common interests. When we do find them, we create associations, camaraderie, and friendships—and, of course, we expand our personal network.

Create a Bond

Finding things in common can be so simple! Sometimes even one shared experience will do. (“Hang on. Weren’t you at that appalling conference in Toronto where . . .?”) In fact, sometimes a single incident can create a lasting bond. I have a former client, Owen, with whom I negotiated a deal in meetings that went on until dawn. When I run into him today, he always teasingly introduces me as the “the lady lawyer with whom he once spent the night.” By telling that story, Owen makes me feel more like a friend with a shared past than a legal advisor! 

Use Your Family

I was single through a good part of my legal career, and I always felt excluded when my colleagues turned business development activities into family occasions. Perhaps what I really felt was envy, as I watched my partners cultivate relationships with their clients through common family interests. I truly believe that merging personal lives with business relationships forges deeper connections.

Use Your Interests

While my male colleagues were using their families (and sporting events) to generate camaraderie with clients, I looked for and found my own angle—fashion. For years I had taunted my partners by saying that if they could take their clients to rugby and football matches, I might just take mine to London Fashion Week . . . and then one day I thought, “Well, why not?”—so I did! Over time this became a unique networking event that conveniently meshed with my personal interest in fashion. And while football and beer-minded clients naturally outnumber fashionistas, I did find plenty of like-minded people. Membership in my network was that much more exclusive—and tightly knit! 

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Networking tip 3: Connect people with people

Today’s tip is again short and sweet:  build your network by connecting other people.

One of the keys to helping others within your network is to bring people together for their mutual benefit. This is what networking is all about, and the results typically achieve more than any other act of generosity. As a credible source making an introduction, you automatically generate trust between the people you bring together, and they’re able to commence a beneficial relationship with confidence—feeling gratitude toward you as well.

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Networking tip 2: Share your knowledge

Following on from my last post, I am continuing my new year’s networking tips.  Today’s tip is short and sweet:  share your knowledge (for free!).

Every lawyer possesses information that would be valuable to others in his immediate network. Never underestimate the value of your knowledge, and go out of your way to share it willingly. The worst mistake you can make is to treat any of your research, documents, or templates as proprietary: there will be far more benefit—both to yourself and to others—if you circulate them among clients, colleagues, and contacts. 

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A new year to begin your networking NOW

In one of my December posts, I suggested that the holidays were a good time to network.  With the holidays now over, especially if you didn’t use that time as a networking opportunity, I urge you to begin the new year with a networking goal.  With this in mind, I’m going to use this month’s blog posts to give you a few networking tips.  My first tip is this: commit to the success of others.

An effective network is contingent on the success of each person within the group. As other individuals in your circle become more successful, they not only extend their power and influence, but also their chances of being able to help you. . . In short, by boosting the careers of others, you probably increase the likelihood of gaining your own rewards.  (This is what I call the Elevator Mission: Lift people up emotionally and they will in return appreciate you.  Well, it’s also important to lift people up professionally—they will probably lift you up in return).

Second, through the act of helping, you reinforce relationships. When you are generous with referrals, contacts, or support, a mutual bond is created. Through recommendations, you’renot only telling the other person that he is worthy (subliminal message: “I trust you”), but you’re also cultivating his trustby providing something of value without asking for a return. So even when you think helping someone else might prove detrimental to yourself, you should still consider extending that support. Giving something is always better and healthier than any short-term reward that you might receive from hoarding it. 

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