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Exercise Your Networking Muscles

Exercise Your Networking Muscles

Put me in a room full of strangers and it is pure nirvana to me. Literally, I just get excited to meet new people - to understand what they do, where they work, or sometimes simply where they live. I am a curious person; it may be a bit nutty, but I love to walk out of a conference with business cards, new knowledge, or an idea to share back at the office. Sometimes I have met someone who later becomes a friend, or even someone I have hired.

I say hello to people in elevators and often introduce myself. Once on an elevator on my way to an interview I was nervous and preoccupied — so distracted that I did not recognize the CEO of the company. Fortunately, I spoke to him and said good morning. Later when he formally introduced himself, I shared that I had not recognized him because he looked so young in person in comparison to published photos. Fortunately, he had a sense of humor, and I got a job offer.

Why is this social networking so helpful or valuable to me?

When I have a dilemma at work. I have a broad network of people I can leverage for advice or critique. I also have the ability to quickly access information and resources, and that enhances my personal credibility and value.

[Watch: The Perks of Having a Personal Board of Directors, with Sallie Krawcheck]

I am also a firm believer in "paying it forward" and networking is one way to make the world a bit smaller and more connected. Help a new college graduate navigate to their first job. Make an introduction for a colleague who may have lost their job due to a restructuring or downsizing event. I have found people have long memories of how you assisted them on their life's journey.

Now, there is an art to this — or rather, an unspoken code of conduct. You need to be courteous and respectful of your contacts. You have to verify whether they are open to receiving or giving outreach. You also cannot go back to the same contact over and over. That's called stalking!

Keep it simple:

Are you leveraging your social media, like LinkedIn? Is there an opportunity to introduce members of your network to each other for their mutual benefit? Reach out to contacts that you have not spoken to in a while to refresh the relationship. Initiate a happy hour to bring people together several times a year.

[Related: Your Most Powerful Secret Weapon for Networking Success]

Don't worry if you are not an extrovert like me. Please know the rejection risk to building your network is low. Most people want to broaden their professional circle. People like to talk about their experiences of success, or challenges, or even failures. This is particularly true if they can see a professional or personal benefit.

No matter what stage you are on the career spectrum, you can benefit from the insight and influence of others. Do some outreach, leverage your interests and schedule some coffee appointments — I promise you will see the benefit. Good luck.


Barbara Polk is the President of Amplify People Advisors, LLC. She's a strategic operations executive with a proven ability to impact business results, and an expert at aligning human capital and operational strategies to support both business objectives and organizational values.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.


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