It’s not what you know, it’s who you know: 10 Tips for Making Contacts

In today’s diverse society, the phrase; “It’s not what you know – it’s who you know” couldn’t be more apt!  To be successful in your chosen field, you have to be resourceful. Your talents, abilities, and experience won’t get you very far if nobody knows you exist (no man is an island my Aunt always says!) Now with the raise of social media as a way to network, it’s never been easier to make those contacts – and keep them!

1. First things first – Start simple.  Begin with your existing connections. Getting in touch with old friends, distant relatives, and people you went to school with can be a good stepping stone because you’re reaching out, but you’re not approaching complete strangers. Work on networking first on this group of people before moving on to people with whom you have a more tenuous connection.

2. Locate who you want to talk to. As a professional, or an aspiring professional, your time is important. Be discerning and selective — you owe it to yourself. Simply approach someone confidently, stick out your hand, and introduce yourself. It’s not easy to do, but it’s straightforward, and the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

3. Have your elevator pitch prepared. An elevator pitch is a personal blurb that sums up the “professional you” or your business and can be delivered quickly — for example, in the time it would take two people to share an elevator ride. Not exactly a speech that you memorise, an elevator pitch is a couple of refrains that you remember that you can build around, given the situation. Here’s an example:

4. Learn the art of the chit-chat, or small talk. Having a great conversation often starts with a little bit of back-and-forth. It’s an opportunity for you to get a feel for the other person, and for them to get a feel for you. Some people describe it this way: Conversation is a ladder, and small talk is the first rung that you step on.[3] Don’t worry if it feels unnatural at first. Smile, remember to be confident in your abilities, and listen intently.

5. But don’t be afraid to go deeper. If your conversation stays on the bottom half of the ladder, you risk not distinguishing yourself from the dozens of other people that the person you’re networking with meets over the course of the event or the year. In order to distinguish yourself from others, you’ll want to dive deeper after the superficial chitchat and say something that really causes your contact to pause and think about you.

6. Set yourself apart by thinking before you speak. In normal conversation, it’s common to build up a flow of conversation and to fear the dreaded awkward pause. But when you’re worried about constantly keeping up the flow of conversation, you often forget about listening to what the other person has to say and formulating an intelligent response.

7. Approach the networking experience from the perspective of “How can I help this person? Some people think of networking as a selfish act, because some treat the process as a means to an end instead of an end in itself. While some certainly treat networking that way, it’s a less sophisticated way to think about networking. Instead, try approaching a networking situation being willing to help someone else out first. If you genuinely try to help others out, they’ll want to do the same for you. Then, the motivation for mutual assistance will come from a genuinely good place.

8. Find out who knows whom. When you’re talking to people, find out what they do for a living and for fun, as well as what their spouse or significant other, nearby family members, and close friends do for work and recreation, too. It may be helpful to make note of this in your address book so you don’t lose track of who does what..

9. If all goes well, ask for their business card and assure them you’d like to continue the conversation. Once you’ve had a pleasant chat, exchanged viewpoints, or commiserated over a horrible boss, don’t be afraid to say that you’ve enjoyed the conversation. Offer something like: “I’m glad we talked. You seem like a very knowledgeable and respected person. How about we continue the conversation soon?”

10. Follow up – Do Lunch… Or Coffee. Don’t get someone’s business card or e-mail address and forget about it. Find a way to stay in touch. Maintain your network. Because your network is like a tree: without nourishment, it will die. Be sure to give it the attention it needs to stay alive.


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