Networking for fun and profit

Dress well, remember a few names and faces, and you're the center of attention

It's always easier to make that next big sale or take that next big career step if you have some reliable outside help. Let's face facts. It's not what you know; it's whom you know that makes the difference. Join me for this month's dive into the morass we call the Web in search of zero-cost, non-commercial, registration-free resources aimed at providing you with practical information about cementing those interpersonal connections that can add some important variety to your work life. Remember, we search the Web so you don't have to.
Who was that guy?

You'll know if you're networking effectively when you're meeting new people at a rapid pace. You'll be connecting people and others will be connecting you with someone. Being effective means remembering who they are, where you met them, their wants and needs, and other such details. 'Remembering Names'by Barbara Van Dyne, found at http://memorytalk.com/remembertip.html, is a list of various tricks you can use to keep your mental Rolodex well oiled and functional when you receive that unexpected call from someone who claims they met you once.

If, on the other hand, that someone contacts you in person, your problem becomes one of remembering a face. In that case, you're going to need to connect a name with a face, which is a good reason to remember http://www.acs.ucalgary.ca/~mueller/TOTAL/total.html, a Web page about total recall. Scroll to the bottom and click on 'How to Remember Names and Faces.

Dressing for success
It's human nature to scan and evaluate any stranger who approaches us too closely for any reason. We can't help giving the face and mode of dress a once-over as we rate the person as positive or negative overall. First impressions form just that quickly, and others are rating you in the same hardwired way. Although you can't do much about your mug, you can certainly control your glad rags.

In the interest of your enhanced sartorial splendor, I offer you 'Ask Andy About Clothes' , a Web site 'devoted to men's clothes what to wear, how to properly wear it, and the history of why we wear what we do. Operated by Andy Gilchrist in Manhattan Beach, Calif., it provides a real education about dressing for success when you're out networking. Point your haute couture mouse at http://www.askandyaboutclothes.com/ and knock 'em dead the next time you walk into a room of strangers.

Of course, you'll be wearing a tie. Being so prominent when you approach people, I assume you're going to want it to be perfect. That's why you might want to dispatch that Teutonic desk rodent to a German site, http://www.krawattenknoten.info/krawatten/Krawattenknoten/tieknot.html, that shows 19 ways to knot your noose, including a bow tie.

You're probably aware that the people with whom you're going to be networking are going to notice your shoes. Running shoes are out. They don't go well with a suit. You need leather. And Lynne Schulz knows about leather. As the proprietor of Schulz Shoecare in Murray Bridge, Australia, Lynne has a Web page that provides a general treatise on the care and feeding of leather for shoes. Walk over to http://www.lm.net.au/~schulz/shoecare.htm and dress up your lower digits.

Of course, those shoes will need to be polished periodically. When you think of the epitome of highly polished shoes, the military comes to mind. It just so happens, there's a Web page that reveals the secret to a mirror finish on leather-covered feet. March your mouse over to http://www.cadetstuff.org/archives/000200.html, where you'll find 'How to Spit-and-Polish' , by MID James Elliott RNR of the Civil Air Partol.

Networking for sales
The only thing worse than looking for a job is actually finding one. From that point forward, you've got to perform day in and day out. But networking also can help when you find yourself being forced to cash a regular paycheck. Consider the business maxim that says enhancing revenue is much easier and more fun than cutting costs. Applying your newfound networking skills to promoting your company and its products will, in the long run, help amass sufficient resources for your retirement years. Think about it for a moment. We're all in sales in one way or another.

If you start promoting your business this way, you may want to take the advice Doug Staneart offers in his article, 'Increase your Sphere of Influence: How to Network. The goal is to become the focus of attention whenever you walk into a room. You'll get the same response your mouse will receive if it visits
http://www.high-impact-leaders.com/articles/increase_your_sphere_of_influence.html.

Self-branding
Every company wants to have a good public image. Every company also has any number of employees who spend only a relatively small part of the day on the premises. When they're not tethered to the workplace, how those employees interact with the dozens of people they confront on the outside reflects on the company. Employees can be, in effect, goodwill ambassadors with the ability to promote the business.

For the purposes of this article, I'd argue that you are your own company, your own brand and your own ambassador. I'd argue that you should be promoting and 'selling'your unique package of characteristics when you deal with those dozens of people on the outside. If you buy into that, then you might be interested in reading 'How to Make Your Employees Look Good! Four Questions to Help You Boost Your Company Image' , by Patricia Fripp. The article argues that if employees have the proper communication, appearance, attitudes and continuing education, they will be better prepared to 'sell'your organization to outsiders. Of course, to apply the information to your personal brand, you'll need to make some mental adjustments to Fripp's wording as you read it. As your own ambassador, you should contact http://www.oicexchange.com/index.php?ch=4&pg=284&ac=5625, letting your trusty mouse be your envoy.

In a way, networking turns you and your brand into a home-based business. Like any other small business, you would do well to learn a bit about marketing. Now, that's not the same as sales, as you will discover if you read 'Bring in More Adopt a Marketing Mindset'by Trudy Van Buskirk. Marketing and sales work together to get you the rewards you want. Click your way to http://www.homebusinessreport.com/Articles/art2_Oct2002.htm and start attracting prospects.

Working an event
Perhaps you're planning to attend a networking meeting, an event designed for pressing the flesh and making an impression on many strangers quickly. Getting the most out of the valuable time you spend there requires a plan. The rules are slightly different from those you'd use when meeting people out in the real world. To see what I mean, take a look at 'Networking Skills' , a page of advice posted by the Graduate School of Management, University of Dallas. Aim your cursor at http://gsmweb.udallas.edu/cmo/New_Website/CareerCounseling/NetworkingSkills.html, scroll down to about the middle of the page and look for the section with 10 tips for standing out in a crowd. Some of this material will be useful when you attend trade shows, seminars and professional meetings.

Digital networking
Academia is different from industry, as is the protocol that Ivory Tower types use when networking. Getting into that august tower requires a climber to have many more toeholds and contacts than would be needed in industry. The need to know and be known starts even before some institution confers a doctorate on a candidate.

A resource you should know about is 'Networking on the Network: A Guide to Professional Skills for PhD Students'by Phil Agre at the University of California, Los Angeles. This is by far the largest single Web reference I've ever stumbled upon. The document's 15 sections use the better part of 70,000 words to deliver a thorough how-to for a targeted audience. At that length, it's not something you're going to want to print out for bedtime reading. I would like to direct your attention, however, to Section 5, which deals with the role of electronic media in your networking efforts. In addition to using e-mail effectively, it advises you to establish your own professional Web site, a topic we covered here in February 1998. So, aim your mouse at http://polaris.gseis.ucla.edu/pagre/network.html and start making your toeholds.

Soft peddle
The popular media abound with stories about manufacturing companies closing and former employees scrambling for work. Many go for retraining to learn skills in a new field. With new qualifications in hand, they start job hunting anew, but starting from square one, not having any practical experience. For those folks, a useful tactic to consider is the informational interview. Its purpose is to gather market intelligence, not to con someone into hiring you. Informational interviews require a subtle skill set that even college students with no industrial experience can master.

Johns Hopkins Career Center offers a handout titled 'Networking Skills' , which is a how-to on effective informational interviewing. Obviously, it's targeted for students, but career-changers can benefit from the advice. Educate your mouse about the advantages of going to http://www.jhu.edu/~careers/handouts/networking.pdf for the six-page document that gets you started.

Without comment
http://www.brooksgroup.com/free/articles/prospecting/engage.htm
http://gsmweb.udallas.edu/cmo/New_Website/CareerCounseling/NetworkingSkills.html
http://www.chapterleaders.com/nwarticles/
http://www.howdesign.com/jobs/career_advice/TCGnetwork.asp
http://www.careerjournal.com/myc/officelife/20001214-yager.html 
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