The goal of networking isn’t to meet people, it’s to make sure that the people you meet remember you, says John Daly, professor of communication and management at The University of Texas at Austin, where he teaches interpersonal communications, advocacy, and persuasion. “The measure of your networking success is how quickly people return your calls, answer your emails, and volunteer to help you,” he says. “If you want to be more successful, you need to know how to network.”
Daly offers five strategies for successful networking:
Look for Opportunities to Expand Your Network
Taking a maxim from Robert Metcalfe, the inventor of the Internet, Daly says, “The value of your network grows as the square of the number of its users.” Talk to new people and “befriend people with no friends,” says Daly. “When someone new joins your company, be the first to help him or her out. If you make a friend of someone who has no friends, he’ll be your friend forever.”
Don’t Embarrass Yourself When Networking
When you forget names or, worse, forget that you’ve met someone before, it leaves a bad impression. Practice remembering names; always say “Nice to see you,” instead of “Nice to meet you;” don’t ask embarrassing questions; and don’t gossip.
Write Stuff Down About People
Keep your Rolodex close to you, and if you have it on a computer, make a copy. Aside from keeping the usual contact information, include personal tidbits like people’s hobbies, how you met, their children’s names, their favorite wine. “That way, when you chat with them, you can say something that reminds them of your personal relationship,” advises Daly.
Understand that Weak Links Matter
If you chat with successful leaders, you’ll find that they know a lot of people outside their professional realm. This is because they know the value of weak links. “People you have strong ties with probably know the same people and information you do,” explains Daly. “While they may be great friends, the network you need to build is with people you have weak links with.”
Do Favors Before Being Asked
Good networkers are masters of the favor, Daly says, “They surprise people by remembering them.” Simple acts like sending someone an article you think she will find interesting or passing on the name of a good restaurant in a city she will be visiting can go a long way. Good networkers also know how to ask for favors. Daly believes that when you ask others for favors, they become invested in you and want you to be successful. “There’s no harm in seeking help from others, and you’ll probably get great returns from doing so.”