By: Constance Lee Menefee

You've heard it and maybe said it: You must learn to network. Yet how often do you meet people who don't carry that simplest of networking tools - the business card? By the time you've both dug around for a scrap of paper, much of the initial enthusiasm has dribbled away.

Networking step one is making yourself known and remembered. How often have you stumbled on that step?

Successful networking is far more than happenstance and elusive business cards.

The November-December 1995 issue of Research Technology Management has a detailed list of tips for cultivating an interconnected group of people. Networks, virtual or otherwise, need care and feeding.

  • Reciprocity is the basis of all networking activities: flow goes both ways, otherwise you have built a pipeline.
  • Each contact is the chance to seek out and share information.
  • Don't filter others' ideas through your own biases: an open mind is receptive.
  • Expect some negative interactions with people you'll eventually consider your best contacts: the give and take is part of real life.
  • Build it before you need it: opportunities often arise simply from the process of building, but opportunities won't wait for bridges to be built in today's business world.
  • Gather information from a variety of sources: who are the people and companies you ought to meet?  What should you know about other industries, just in case?
  • Set up a system for keeping track of your network.
  • Position yourself by going to the right meetings or trade shows or restaurants: join a professional association and participate.
  • Learn to introduce yourself with enthusiasm and confidence.Avoid gimmicks like breaking into song or making little rhymes with your business name. These don't wear well.
  • Acknowledge your sources by giving credit: others appreciate that quality.
  • Use commonsense: did you ask all the questions at lunch?  Pick up that check!
  • Don't ask questions you wouldn't want to answer.
  • Share the wealth with others in your network.  Find an article that someone could use? Send it with no strings attached and no expectations.
  • Good will is the most precious commodity, no matter what business you're in.

  Article originally appeared in the Cincinnati Post, Sept 10, 1996