Make it About Them

Angel L Ramos (@thenewapproach) asked me to blog about effective networking tips.

Angel, you have discovered a topic where I must admit that I don’t think I have much to say. I work with three professional networkers: Bridget Downes, Kelly Dowling and Tiffany Hughes. Having the pleasure of watching them for a year and looking for what makes them so successful, I think it comes down to this:

Networking is like a first date… If you want a second date, make it about them.

The risk in this strategy is that they might always want it to be about them. When that happens, you need to know that it is time to move on.

Bridget, Kelly and Tiffany–feel free to chime in.


8 thoughts on “Make it About Them

  1. Networking is about connecting people that you know to the contacts and resources that they need to be successful. If you do that enough, without worrying about what you have coming to you, you will be rewarded. If you do it solely because you want to be rewarded, you’ll fail. Networking, then, is just another application of karma. (Thank you Dean Caravelis for helping me understand this!)

  2. Paul,
    Spot on with your observation. Here is a rather simple way to see what you are talking about. If people will see “network” as a noun rather than a verb, they will find a stronger set of relationships in their circles of influence. By that I mean most people participate in networking rather than build, cultivate, and foster a network of meaningful relationships in their lives. During my very first internship in college, my boss, and now long time mentor, Randy Berridge said to me, “If you learn anything while working here, understand that the most important asset in your career is your network of relationships. It will be there to help achieve things when times are good and persevere when times are bad.” His caveat to that was that you had to earn it by offering to serve and help in establishing the relationship. It was advice that I carry out every day. He presented the concept to me as a noun…the network is something to build and care for with our efforts and actions. Hope that helps.

  3. Paul- Thank you for the kind words. Having exciting things to talk about with regard to the direction of the college certainly makes our work easier! As you’ve noted, effective networking starts with a lot of questions, requires loads of follow-up, and in many instances becomes mutually beneficial over time.

    In my work with UCF business alumni, I try to build personal relationships with everyone I meet. During the initial meeting, or “first date” phase, I find out as much as I can about a person: their careers, family, UCF experiences, community involvement, passions, interests, etc. The trick is remain genuine and not over eager. People love to talk about themselves, but don’t like feeling interrogated. It’s a delicate balance, but remaining pleasant, calm and natural during these interactions is key.

    The next step is to follow-up on our conversations (the second date, if you will). In my experience, networking is about much more than a conversation over an adult beverage. Maintaining a network is equally important. If I’ve been given a business card or an action item was discussed, I make every effort to touch base and make good on promises made. This helps build confidence in the relationship, proving that that you are the type of professional that does what they say they will (a great person to have in any network!).

    After determining an individual’s motives and weeding out the “all about me” types, I then move into what I’ll call the “proposal” phase (in sticking with the metaphor). By this time, I’ve acted as resource to the alumni in some form or fashion and it is time to ask for their assistance in return. This help comes in the form of getting involved with the university, be it as a mentor, event attendee, community advocate, sponsor, or what have you. Thus, the network becomes win-win.

    While this example is specific to my work, I think the principals are transferrable to many fields. Tiffany and Kelly are networking giants and can certainly provide more helpful insights as well.

    For Angel (@thenewapproach), I would recommend some easy, low risk practice. Try stopping by fraternity recruitment or the involvement fairs that are hosted on campus. These settings make for good speed networking and can help you hone your skills. Once you feel comfortable, try out some local networking events put on my the UCF Alumni Association, Orlando Business Journal, or the Orlando Young Professional group. Best of luck to you!

    • Great post Bridget. I have also liked the concept of generalized reciprocity–the notion that u do something for someone today, knowing that someone in your network will do something for you tomorrow.

  4. Pingback: Make it About Them | UCF Alumni Mobile News

  5. Who are “your people?” Do you like with people who woodwork, raise Shetland ponies, ride motorcycles, quilt, play chess, collect hippopotamus statues — figure out who your people are, and where they spend time, and hang out with them, and all of a sudden, networking is fun, not work. Nothing is worse than losing minutes of your life that you will never get back with people you would never in your worst nightmare want to be near.

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