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Interpersonal Networking Skills

Expert: Donna Messer

Jo asked:

My question is, can you please direct me towards a succinct list of defined skills for interpersonal networking? Is there any research on this?

Donna Messer answered:

Skills of Good Networking

Planning. Develop a SMART objective (specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, time-bound). Develop detailed strategies to meet your objective. This becomes your action plan.

Research. Research various networking groups and associations to find out which ones will work for you. Research your contacts by asking them questions, so you will know with whom you are dealing. Research every possible opportunity. Keep your eyes and ears on the news, current events, and local developments.

Self Promotion. Promote yourself effectively. Understand your features and benefits (your strengths and how to use them) and learn how to express them. (SMILE and ASK infomercial)

Communications. Communicate effectively. Good communications are invaluable in any situation. Be articulate, concise, enthusiastic, honest, open. Use language with which you are comfortable but make sure it is powerful. Don't forget the other side of communicating: listening. This is as important as speaking. Don't make the mistake so many people do. Rather than listening, they spend their time thinking of the next thing they are going to say, thus taking virtually nothing in at all.

Think Creatively. Solve problems and maximize opportunities with innovative ideas. Rarely does an answer present itself in back and white. You have to assemble it, create it, and think it through.

Follow through. Follow through on your commitments, both to yourself and others. A good referral or piece of advice only becomes activated into help when you follow it up.

Record keeping. Take full and accurate notes. Otherwise, you will never remember what you've committed to do. Keep lists, schedules, cross-referenced files. Write reminder notes about people you've met on the back of their business cards. Remember to keep your business cards in your right pocket and collected cards in your left pocket, this way you don't give out someone else's card.

Organization. Organize yourself: your thoughts, your notes, your files, your time. This takes time in the short run, but will save you tenfold in the long run. Use a good database, organize by category and use codes for easy identification.

Teamwork. Work hard for others and the rewards will come back to you ten times over.

Rules of Good Networking

Be Open. Be open to new ideas, opportunities and people. There could be answers and magic in everything and everyone.

Be prepared. "Success in networking, is when preparedness meets opportunity." Learn the skills you require to network effectively.

Give just to give. Don't give with the sole purpose of getting something back.

Treat everyone as equals. There is no real value in title or prestige alone. Value is in the information and support people can give, and that often comes from surprising sources. A network is not a bureaucracy or a hierarchy. It is a level and fair playing field.

Ask for yourself. If you need help, ask! It sounds simple but far too many people don't do it. Your closest associates often don't help you when they might, because you don't tell them what you need.

Say thank-you. Thank the people who have helped you.

Commit. Commit yourself to following through. Work hard. Networking takes time. Only you can do your own work. Don't abuse others by receiving their help then refusing to act on it.

Be courteous. Listen to others when they speak. Don't monopolize the conversation. Get to the point quickly.

Circulate. Talk with as many people as you can at a networking function. Establish identities, needs, goals and resources. Handle detailed discussion at a later date.

Who makes up your Network?

Everyone in your life is part of your network, and it's probably bigger than you think. They can all help you and you can help them. You should learn what you can about each individual. Acknowledging their skills, experiences, talents and needs. The people you know are "warm" leads. It's much easier to build on that warmth by expanding your knowledge of these people, than it is to pursue "cold' leads.

Family. Look at each family member as a well-rounded individual with skills and backgrounds. You can tap into their knowledge and their networks.

Friends. Your friends have skills you may not be aware of. Ask. They have their own networks. Ask to be introduced.

Neighbors. Your physical proximity gives you a unique chance to develop closer ties. Find out who your neighbors are. You know you already have one thing in common - your choice of residence.

Professional in your Field. You may not work directly with them, but you share the same career choice. You can advise and support each other over common issues.

Suppliers. You do business with them anyway. Find out more about them. They might need your services.

Clients. You serve them and you have built up a relationship of trust. Ask them to serve you in various ways, as suppliers, supporters and referrals.

Co-workers. You likely spend more waking hours with these people than you do with you family or friends. How well to you really know them? Find out more. You may be able to help each other.

Clubs or Association Members. If you are involved with any community or professional associations or activities, you have a ready-made network. Most people join these groups to meet others. The door is already open.

Volunteer Groups. One of the most prevalent reasons people volunteer is to meet others and to feel a part of something. Get to know your fellow volunteers better.

Acquaintances. You meet dozens of people in work and social settings. Don't waste these opportunities. Ask each person you meet to tell you more about themselves. Friendships often begin this way. Good networks always do.

About the author

Donna Messer is the President of ConnectUs Communications. She is the founder of Orange Crate, a company that manufactures gourmet, herbs, spices and potpourri. She is also a former Director of Agriculture for the State of Illinois in Canada, and past Chair of Women in Food Industry Management and the Canadian Specialty Food Association. A video of Donna's story - 2nd Chance is on her website Visit her on Google+.

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