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Put Your Networking to Work
It's an overused word, but an underused tool.
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 by Pari Noskin Taichert
Bad Girls Press

Pari Noskin TaichertWe've all heard the old saw: it's not WHAT you know; it's WHO you know.

Well, that expression irks me. It's so cynical. The insinuation is that you can be the smartest, wisest, most educated being this side of Alpha Centuri and you still won't succeed unless you schmooze.

And yet, clichés are clichés for a reason.

Networking isn't a new concept, though sales gurus and executive trainers would have you believe otherwise. Truth is, it takes people to help people in both profit and nonprofit settings.

One of the main problems with popular networking advice is it's based solely on numbers - with no nod to humanity. Sure, the more people you know, the more people will know about what you want to promote. However, it's also true that people can sense when they're being used and they rarely respond joyously to feeling like they are intellectual or business meat.

So, how does a person with ethics and a healthy sense of kindness work the networking angle without feeling like a total hypocrite?

Here are some pointers:

1. You can network anywhere. I always kid about networking at the grocery store; folks, it isn't a joke. You never know when you might find someone who wants to help you or whom you'll want to help. The same is true in cyberspace. Opportunities abound. You can make meaningful contacts at your kids' school, the doctor's office, the car repair shop, parties, etc. So, don't limit yourself to networking only in professional settings. 

2. Go where you feel comfortable. Sure, there are TIPS clubs and professional organization meetings and on and on. But don't go to places because of some common-knowledge "should." Instead of being strategic to the exclusion of your feelings, pay attention to them. Go to meetings, lunches or soccer games precisely because you enjoy them. You'll be more natural in those environments and will be able to make truly useful connections.

3. Don't overmarket. Yes, Virginia, this is such a thing as marketing too darn much. We've all met the bore who won't stop talking about his or her accomplishments. Well, that same bore exists in the business world-and too much of anything makes you sick. When you're talking with someone, make sure the conversation is truly two-way.

4. Elevator speeches sound canned; never sell a fake you. One of the tricks to networking is honesty. Of course, you should prepare some good talking points about your product (and you). But if you stick to a script in a social situation, you're bound to sound insincere. And that's a definite turn-off.

5. Try to follow up. This isn't as easy as it sounds. Most of us don't have all the time in the world to send personal, hand-written notes to everyone we've met and with whom we felt a connection. At the very least, send hand-written notes to a few people with whom you really clicked. I firmly believe that's more effective than any kind of mass thank-you. That said, a mass email is better than nothing.

6. Keep in touch. Newsletters, emails, phone calls, dates, lunches, walks, kaffeeklatsches . . . there are many, many ways to keep yourself top-of-mind with other people. But the key here is to do something!

Remember: underlying all of these pointers is an assumption of activity. You can't network in a vacuum.

But take heart.

If you believe as I do - that everything you do is public relations - you're probably already networking without realizing it. These suggestions simply help you to be more effective at what you naturally are doing anyway.

Pari Noskin Taichert has been doing some form of public relations ever since she could coo. Even her fiction features a PR pro. Contact her through her author website: or through

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