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Liz Ryan’s Top 5 Networking Rules – Good Stuff

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Navigating business networking these days can be confusing at best.  My friend Jeff Klein offers two excellent excellent teleseminars on the subject.  Learning the rules of the networking road becomes more and more necessary as more and more toes get trodden upon.

There are more networking tips out there than one can read in a day, and I thought these five from an article written by Liz Ryan were some of the best:

1) The Happy Life Rule is the cornerstone for networking. We must presume that every person on Earth is leading a happy life without benefit of having met us. A networking overture is not “level.” It’s not neutral. The person making the overture is asking for a very concrete favor, an investment of time and energy.

That’s why we can’t say to someone “Yo, you don’t know me, but I reckon we’d have a great conversation, so please drive thirty miles to meet me.” That’s rude. A networking overture that includes a FTF meeting invitation requires the overture-maker to make the drive, right up to the happily-living-person’s door (let’s say, a quarter mile from his or her office).

2) The Introductions Are Sacred rule requires that a person who’s planning to make an introduction either check in a la “Hey Greta, can I introduce you to this young woman I met on the train? She’s interested in your field” or run the
risk of overstepping the bounds of friendship. People value their privacy and, of course, their time.

3) The Name in Vain Rule kicks in when a person you barely know asks you “Do you know Sharon Smith at the Chamber?” and you say yes, and the next thing you know, Sharon’s been hit up for a meeting with this guy under the premise that you strongly suggested such a meeting take place. That’s introduction theft. Let your friends know “If I think you should meet someone, I’ll make the introduction myself.” Trust no imitators.

4) The You Matter rule requires that a person making a networking overture know enough about his or her networking ‘target’ to make a credible and polite self-introduction. “I don’t know Jack about you, but I suspect that you could help me, here’s my resume” is the networking equivalent of going up to a person on the street and asking for help, or money. It is easy to hand someone $5, but it’s a big imposition to have one’s network and reputation pressed into service, so before asking for those things, we need to understand the history and goals
of each person we’re approaching, and have in mind some ideas of how we might help him or her (not just ideas about he or she can help us!).

“I cannot help anyone – I’m job-hunting” doesn’t cut it. We can still offer to make our own useful introductions, to help with a marketing plan, or to support our networking contact’s goals in some other way -if we have the foggiest idea of what those goals are.

“I’m so glad to be having lunch with you, thanks for meeting me – now what do you do, exactly?” is Networking “Don’t” number one. Why are you meeting this person if you know nothing about him or her? Do your research, BEFORE you walk into the restaurant. Otherwise, you signal “It’s all about me – I’ll have lunch with anyone who’s willing to talk to me. You could be the Man in the Moon for all I care.”

5) My last top-five networking rule is Grandma’s favorite, the Golden Rule. If it feels icky, don’t do it. The kind of networking that wins people new jobs, new clients and funding isn’t the mechanical how-many-intros-can-I-get-out-of-you-in-one-coffee-meeting kind. It’s warmer and more slow-to-build than that. It takes time and energy. It’s based on trust. You already know all this. But, as you say, a reminder every so often isn’t a bad thing.

Liz Ryan is a 25-year HR veteran, former Fortune 500 VP and an internationally recognized expert on careers and the new millennium workplace. Contact Liz at or join the Ask Liz Ryan The opinions expressed in this column are solely the author’s.

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