Article Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed

The Right (and Wrong) Way to Network

Mar. 10, 2015 Harvard Business Review

Some people line up lunches and coffee dates because they’re in search of a job, venture funding, or clients for their company. But if that’s the reason you’re having a networking meeting, you — and your invitee — aren’t likely to get much satisfaction. As Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino and her colleagues have noted, “transactional networking” — i.e., “networking with the goal of advancement” — often makes participants feel so bad about themselves, they feel “dirty.”

That doesn’t mean you should never initiate meetings if you have a specific, immediate goal in mind. But that shouldn’t be confused with “networking.” If you’re honest with your intentions upfront (“I have a new startup, I’m seeking angel funding, and I think you’d be a great partner”), then the other person can make an informed decision about whether to connect. But networking — meeting with the goal of building a robust set of connections over time — is a different process with its own set of best practices. Here’s how to do it successfully.

Research in order to find a commonality. How do you build an immediate connection? According to psychologist Robert Cialdini, the answer is to find a commonality with the other person as quickly as possible. If you happen to meet someone at a conference, you can steer the conversation and try to dig for possibilities (perhaps you might live in the same neighborhood or have kids the same age), but with a pre-planned networking meeting, you have an edge that surprisingly few people take full advantage of: the ability to research the person online beforehand.

Using LinkedIn, Twitter, and other online search results, you can almost certainly find something you share that will serve as a conversation starter. A shared alma mater, hobby, or professional interest can quickly get the person to see you as a peer and someone “on their team.” Starting with a commonality, and then branching into some thoughtful prepared questions about them and their business, will ensure the discussion gets off to a good start. (And help you avoid painfully hackneyed queries like, “What keeps you up at night?”)

Read More on Harvard Business Review

Gene Upshaw Player Assistance Trust Fund

Apply Today

All Resources

Tell Me More

These Are the 8 Types of Friends You Need in Your Life

Having diversity in your network is key to success and happiness.

Read More

This Simple Thought Experiment Will Reshape How You See Your Marriage

Identify your unconscious commitments.

Read More

What Parents Should Know About Traveling With Unvaccinated Kids

Experts share their advice for booking a trip with children at this point in the pandemic.

Read More

Happy Memorial Day from the PAF

Take time today to appreciate those who have served.

Read More

Instead of Waiting for Motivation, Build Habits

Waiting for motivation to strike is likely to be time spent in vain.

Read More

Which Debt Repayment Strategy Does the Most for Your Credit Score?

It's a marathon, not a sprint.

Read More

Build Your Reputation as a Trustworthy Leader

People’s expectations and definition of trustworthiness are broadening for leaders.

Read More

Diabetes: Diet and weight loss may reduce need for blood pressure drugs

85% of patients with type 2 diabetes will require treatment for high blood pressure

Read More