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How to network with people

Updated on February 11, 2014
Donald Rumsfeld networks with Saddam Hussein
Donald Rumsfeld networks with Saddam Hussein

There's no shame in being shy

It's not uncommon or weird to be shy. Lots of people are shy. But bashfulness can cause some problems for people looking to find a great job or advance in the one they have. You've probably heard the saying "it's not what you know, it's who you know". Well, shyness can keep you from meeting the people you really should know, both for friendships and career advancement.

I'm going to show you some tips to make you more outgoing and to do more with the people you do meet. Networking is the number one skill you need to have if you want the job of your dreams.

Don't go too big, too early

Start out by networking with people who are just on the fringe of your social network. These are the friends of friends, the relatives of relatives and so forth. Get to know them. Share some things about yourself and learn some interesting things about them. Remember these things. It's very important to work hard to remember names and basic facts about people. It makes it a lot easier the second time you talk to them and they feel like you've taken the time to care about who they are. Get contact info if the opportunity arises.

Smile and be confident

It's important to smile naturally and often when conversing with someone that you barely know. Be confident. Even if you don't think you can impress a person with your life experience, act like you can. Don't talk too much about yourself though. Remember to ask questions. Nothing conveys confidence like asking someone a question about themselves. Think about it. When was the last time someone asked you a question about yourself? Really think about that situation. Did they seem timid when they were asking you that? Of course not. Just by asking you that question, they showed they have the potential to be the alpha male of any group.

Learn from Dale Carnegie

It would be hard to write anything about networking and social interactions in the workplace without mentioning the name Dale Carnegie. Dale Carnegie wrote a book in the 1930's titled How to Win Friends and Influence People. This book is still passed around at leadership conferences today, some 75 years later.

So, what did Carnegie say?

  • Listen, listen, listen. Let people talk about themselves. People love talking about themselves, so any conversation where you allow them to do that is going to seem like a great conversation to them, giving them a great impression of you. If you can actually remember the things they say, that's even better for you.
  • Business cards. Have them. Even if you don't have a job. Have a card with your name, contact info, and your main skill/education on it. Your business card should look nice, but don't go redesigning it every few months. This isn't American Psycho (this is my addition, Carnegie was dead long before that book or movie came out).
  • Repeat a person's name. People love hearing the sound of their own name, especially when you are speaking it to them. This is doubly good because repeating their name will help you remember it in the long run.

Don't just talk about work stuff

People hate talking about their careers, for the most part. People love talking about sports, hobbies, maybe even politics (be careful with this one unless you can confirm that a person has the same political views as you. Let them speak first on this topic).

Use contacts to make more contacts

Ever wonder how some people just have a small pool of friends while others can make 100 new friends in a week? Take Facebook friends, for instance. Every friend I have on Facebook falls into one of two categories: they have 300 or fewer friends, and probably only about a dozen close friends who they contact on a regular basis or they have 1500 friends or more and they add a couple dozen more every single week. What causes this all or nothing scenario?

The short answer is that some people will meet a new person from a completely unknown social circle and just stay friends with that person. Others will meet that new person and then ask to meet that person's friends. Suddenly they're friends with every person in that social circle that they didn't even know last week. When you meet a new contact, introduce some of your friends to him or her and ask them for an introduction to their friends on your behalf. Don't be as robotic as I'm making this sound. This shouldn't be a quid pro quo, so to speak. It's just a friendly gesture between two new -- well, friends.

When you meet someone new and you really hit it off, plan a way to meet that person again. Maybe when you're going out to dinner with old friends you invite that person (and any of his friends) to come along. It's a great way to expand your circle of friends very quickly. This is especially great if you're new to an area.


Submit a Comment

  • Ben Zoltak profile image

    Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

    Where are the comments on this great piece of writing? Well, starting now I guess, haha. I read Carnegie's book every other year or so, great text. There is a side effect to all of this listening that you haven't mentioned, I guess because it falls out of what you're aiming for here...but let's not forget that all this communication makes the world a better place, even if it incidentally helps the individual striving to network better.

    Well done DB.