business stars

Networking: Business Tactic
or Life Application?

Nowadays, people have seemed to have forgotten about the long lost art of communicating with others. When I say, "communicating," I'm talking about having meaningful, thoughtful, and sincere conversations with people. I'm not implying that you just give your sales pitch and not focus on listening to the other person. Listen, just for the sake of getting to know them. Make a new connection. Potentially you can gain a new business partner or life-long friend. In this fast paced, self-gratifying society, the focus is placed on me and mine rather on what I can do for you.

elevator One day, while staying at a hotel, I rode the elevator with two gentlemen. I made light small talk. Keep in mind; this was no longer than a 1-minute ride. One individual (we'll call him Steve) was more receptive than the other. When we all stepped out, I told them both to have a good day. At this point, I find it necessary to mention that my "small talk" was as simple as saying, "wow, this elevator sure is slow." I didn't ask any prying questions or talk about something that the two men couldn't relate to. I believe an important component of networking is knowing how to properly engage an individual. Communicating a shared experience is a way to do this. That day I used the slow elevator as the experience all 3 of us were sharing.

A few days later, I saw "Steve". He and I rode the elevator again. I made a general comment about appreciating the fact that I woke up on the right side of the grass. Steve was, again, receptive. During our elevator ride, I asked him what brought him to the hotel. He told me that he was a new manager at "Company XYZ", which sent him to work on a new technology. As we reached outside, I allowed him to finish and congratulated him on his new position. I mentioned I would like to stay connected and asked if he was on LinkedIn. He said he was. I gave him my business card, and I indicated scannable QR Code leading to a YouTube video of me teaching a math lesson (see my article "How To Stand Out With Your Business Card"). He was impressed and said that he would like to update his LinkedIn. I told him to feel free to contact me, and I'd love to help him improve his page.

elevator During the above exchange, I didn't pry into his personal matters. I just allowed him to talk. Also, I was prepared. I had my business card with me. When the opportunity to exchange contact information arose, I was ready to seize the opportunity. Lastly, I offered to help. I told Steve that I could help him work on improving his LinkedIn page. It's a good rule of thumb first to seek to find how you can help someone rather than how they could help you. When I heard that he was a manager at "Company XYZ", I could have easily given my elevator pitch and asked him to take a look at my resume. However, that wouldn't have gone over as well. Who knows, "Steve" and I could become business partners or life-long friends. As time goes on, we'll see how our relationship develops.

I whole-heartedly believe that networking not only applies to business. It applies to life. If done correctly, networking can help you grow many mutually beneficial business relationships as well as genuine life-altering friendships.

Below 5 tips to render your networking pleasant and successful:

Proper Engagement: learn the fine art of small talk. Know how to talk about experiences that are relevant to people.

Talk Less, Listen More: if you get someone talking, let them continue talking.

Be Prepared: have your business card ready to exchange information when the opportunity arises.

Healthy relationships (business or personal) aren't built in 1 day. There is no need to overwhelm them with questions. Nor do you have to tell a person your life story.

Be Open: as you network you don't know if you're making a business partner or friend. Go with the flow and enjoy getting to know someone new.

By Sam P Lark Jr.

With over 20 years of combined experience in the education and nonprofit sectors, Sam P. Lark, Jr is a highly qualified professional that will make significant impacts to organizations rapidly. He specializes in process improvement, leadership development, and management of cross-functional, multi-culturally diverse teams.

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Image: Steven Snodgrass // Flicker (CC BY 2.0)

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