Everyone gets cocky now and again. Sometimes we’re lulled into cozy complacency because of an MBA from an esteemed business school or employment at a well-connected corporation. It’s easy to begin feeling like your business network is a lean, mean, VIP-laden machine.
You can help stave off stagnation in your contact list by recognizing that the job of learning how to network is never complete. Even the best-connected, most savvy networker needs to assess his or her e-rolodex now again. Luckily, diligence and adherence to some key guidelines can keep your networking fresh and beneficial from year to year.
Spend extra time on an exceptional connection. If you think one particular conversation might lead to an excellent, mutually beneficial relationship, invest enough time and energy to bring the friendship to fruition. One great connection is better than 10 dead-end contacts. Besides, it gives you an excuse to order another cup of coffee. Or several.
Tap into your passion. If you can convey honest passion for your company’s products or services, your conversations will be much more “real” and interesting — especially to the people you’re talking to. On the flip side, half-hearted, mandatory pitches are recognized from a mile away. You know those conversations that last 30 minutes but feel like you watched Titanic twice back to back? That’s what you’re trying to avoid.
Don’t replace human interaction with technology. Computers, tablets and smartphones are valuable tools, but they haven’t replaced human interaction. Good ol’ coffee chats, lunch meetings and the like still serve as valuable forums for intriguing testimonials, concise explanations and those ever-important nonverbal cues. Think of it as a good excuse to practice your pensive eyebrow raise.
Follow up fast and well. With the rapid rise in popularity of social media, there are more ways than ever to ensure your fresh acquaintances hear from you quickly after your initial introduction. Email, Twitter, phone and in person are great ways to follow up within 48 hours. In reality, the sentiment matters more than the tool.
With the right combination of confidence and preparation, you can begin to maximize the professional networking opportunities that come with a hard-earned business school degree and other achievements.
But remember, don’t let it go to y