Professional Networking is an LinkedIn Learning online course on professional networking in which Dorie Clark, the course teacher, teaches how to build real relationships while being conservative with your time.
- Connect multiple colleagues at once
- If you’re going to dinner with one of your contacts, invite another contact to join you
- Invite people to events that you’re already attending
- Focus on doing just one meeting per week
About The Professor: Dorie Clark is a networking expert who’s been named one of the Top 50 Business Thinkers in the World by Thinkers50 twice, and the #1 Communication Coach in the World by the Marshall Goldsmith Leading Global Coaches Awards, as well as one of the Top 10 Communication Professionals in the World by Global Gurus.
Her Professional Networking Process
#1. Prioritize your most important contacts.
Divide all of your contacts into three groups:
- Group 1: Your top ten contacts.
- Group 2: Your top 50 contacts.
- Group 3: Your top 100 contacts.
Then, put more time into your top 10.
So, block out an hour to review your entire list of contacts. (As you review your contacts, jot down on a piece of paper or basic spreadsheet who should fall into your top ten, top 50, or top 100.)
For your top ten, include the people who could make a real difference to your professional future. This includes:
- Current or past clients
- Prospective clients
- Friends who are connectors
- People in the media
Make sure to expand this list to anyone else you think could make a difference in your career or business down the line.
#2. Think about the ways you can keep in touch with your top ten contacts.
Find a good medium of communication for each contact.
It could be through email, phone calls, postal mail, or in person — whether that’s one-on-one or in groups.
#3. Look at your calendar and mark out time to connect with your top ten contacts.
The specifics will vary, but it should be something that’s realistic for you based on what you can manage in your days.
If you have a long commute, you can plan to call at least one person in your top 100 per day on your ride home to check in. (That means that at least three times a year you will have reached out to someone that’s important to you.)
Another option you can try might be to schedule a one-on-one coffee each week with someone on your top ten list. (That means that approximately every quarter you’ll be personally connecting with them.)
#4. Re-evaluate your networking strategy every three months.
Is it working the way you want? Do you feel like you’re connecting with the right people and deepening your relationships?
- Ask yourself, “Is there anyone I’ve met in the past three months who’s worth adding to my list?” (Maybe there’s a potential client who you’d like to get to know better.)
- Ask yourself, “Is there anyone who should be dropped from the list?” (If you have contacts in your list that have retired and switched jobs and they’re no longer working in your relevant industry, you may not need to be so focused on networking with them professionally. But, of course, you can still hang out with them socially and so on.)
- Ask yourself, “Am I spending my time on the right activities?” (Maybe the phone calls aren’t working and you should spend more time on follow-up emails. See what’s working and adjust what’s not.)
Her Event Networking Process
Before the Event
#1. Do your research.
Research your target contacts in advance.
- Find out what events your target contacts attend.
- Find things to talk about that enable you to avoid “small talk.”
#2. Screen the event for how conducive it is to successful networking.
You can screen the event for how conducive it is to successful networking by asking strategic questions.
A couple of strategic questions you can ask yourself (before you decide to attend a certain event) might be:
- Who will be attending? (And, is it my target audience?)
- Will I be able to make connections at the event?
- Is this event optimized for making connections? (An event hosted in a very large bar where you have to shout to make conversation is NOT conducive to networking success.)
- Will I enjoy the event? (Will the event force me to participate in activities I hate? Will the event cause me to not enjoy myself or have a good time? Will there be positive ice-breaker activities at the event?)
- Is the timing optimal for me? (Do you have to wake up ridiculously early to get to the event where you’ll be groggy, tired, moody, or cranky while talking to people?)
#3. Choose the events you think are best for your networking goals.
Go for quality over quantity.
Dorie Clark says:
Clark: “You don’t have to go to every event. Pick and choose which ones fit your interests and your lifestyle best.”
At the Event
#4. Find something you and your target contact both have in common.
Robert Cialdini says that the best thing you can do to make a favorable first impression is to find commonalities because it shifts the person into now seeing you as a peer or someone like them. (It doesn’t have to be a profound commonality either. It can be something small and / or simple.)
You can start with the reason you’re both at this event and work from there.
#5. Learn about your target contact’s passions.
Ask them, “What are you most excited about right now?” This will steer the conversation toward something they really care about.
#6. Become your target contact’s wingman.
Once you’ve learned something about your new contact and have had a good chat, you can solidify the bond by starting to think of yourself as their wingman.
Ask yourself if there is someone else at this event that you think they should meet based on the interests your target contact shared with you. (You can offer to introduce them or make a connection.)
Or, maybe, when someone else slides over to say “hello,” you can shine a light on your target contact — you can make a point of mentioning an interesting fact about your new friend.
#7. Offer to provide value to your new contact (connection).
Clark: “If the person you’re networking with is senior to you, it can be hard to figure out what you can actually offer them [that they’ll appreciate]. You can’t give them a job or allocate a budget to them or even introduce them to new people because their network is way more extensive than yours.”
One way you can almost always help is by providing hands-on assistance.
One example of giving this hands-on assistance is in the case of Heather Rothenberg, who made friends with powerful senior women in her industry when she volunteered to be the secretary of a professional association.
Another example is Jona Xiao, who deepened many friendships and connections in the entertainment industry when she offered to help out her producer contacts as a producer’s assistant, even though she was an actor looking to work in front of the camera, not behind it.
More options for you might be:
- Help out other people that your connection cares about. (For example, can you provide value to your contact’s son?)
- Volunteer for charitable causes your connection supports.
- For some contacts, you may be able to offer an introduction. This is especially true for peers or people at a junior level, but you can also help senior colleagues (such as if you have a senior colleague who’s moving into a new area where you have more connections).
- Provide your connection with (valuable) information.
- Offer your perspective on a topic, subject, or problem.
- Make thoughtful gestures. (For example, you can make a donation in the name of each of your mentors toward their favorite causes or a current newsworthy event — such as the Asian tsunami natural disaster.)
After the Event
#8. Identify follow-up topics for your new contacts.
This will provide you with opportunities and good excuses to get in touch.
An example of a good excuse (and follow-up topic) is If their favorite sports team wins the Super Bowl or if their company wins a large contract that gets reported in the news.
#9. Set a schedule for getting in touch.
For each key contact, write down how frequently you want to make sure that you’re in touch with them.
#10. Determine the most effective follow-up options.
Email, text, call, and so on. Test what people respond to best and go with that. (Do they prefer Tweets on social media? Hand-written cards?)
Her Alternative Event Networking Process
Host Your Own Networking Event
#1. Determine what type of event you want to hold.
Think about the events you liked that you attended in the past and what you liked about them. (For example, a dinner party at your house if you like to cook, a restaurant gathering, a group bike ride, a boat cruise, etc.)
#2. Choose who to invite.
No more than ten people.
The group should all have at least one thing in common with each other. (They are all people who work in the same company, they all work in the same industry, etc.)
#3. Decide the event’s structure.
Welcome people when they arrive.
Immediately introduce people to others if they don’t know anyone there.
Real Life Applications
Keep an eye on events with “ice-breaker activities”
If the event is a group outing to a ball game or a wine tasting, then you can predict that there will be positive opportunities to break the ice with anyone you want to connect with at the event.
Offer to give value by offering hands-on assistance
A great example of this is actually the “Coffee Step” which is a networking concept coined and shared by Dr. Tim Elmore in his college course at Kennesaw University, Successful Career Development.
Elmore: “Coffee step is simply an image that teaches [you this]…Very often the first step in your career is not about talent, it’s about trust. And, actually, this was from a great story of an intern that I oversaw years and years ago.
Carrie had come to the office as a recently mentored college graduate and she was asked to get the coffee. And, she told me later, she said, ‘Dr. Tim, I gotta be honest with you. I was put off by that. I thought, ‘Is it because I’m a girl?’ And, ‘The guys won’t do this,’ or, ‘Do you not realize I’ve got a degree from Kansas State University?’ You know she had all the logical reasons. But, she said, ‘I decided to bite my lip and just get the coffee.’ She told me, ‘It was the wisest decision I ever made.’ Here’s why.
She said doing that dumb little thing — that small thing — got me in the room with the executives. I’m handing out coffee, I’m meeting the president, the executives, the vice president, she said pretty soon we’re in conversations, they get to know me, next thing you know they’re asking me questions, next thing you know they’re having me sit down at the table cause I’m 22 and they want to know what a 22-year-old…she said, the ‘coffee step’ was a step to exactly where I wanted to go. And, the people that wouldn’t do that small thing never got in the room.”
Misses opportunities to give value
She says that for some contacts who are senior to you, you can’t introduce them to new people because their network is way more extensive than yours.
But, there are exceptions, such as when you network with a focus on “quality over quantity.” In those cases, the extensivity of your network isn’t as big of a factor and there will still be opportunities to add value to the lives of the contacts above you (such as with powerful introductions they didn’t expect).
No networking scripts
If you’re looking for networking scripts, this course might not be for you.
Recommends WIIFT fails
Clark recommends you invite your contacts to coffee. But, that’s a “what’s in it for them” (WIIFT) fail, in the sense that there’s no incentive for them to agree to meet with you for coffee.
Asking your contact to go to coffee with you communicates, “In the middle of the day, right when they’re probably working, you want to have casual conversation while you ask them a ton of questions. And, just in case you decide to (or feel like you have to) pay, it will be cheap for you (because that’s probably what their input is worth anyway).”
And, that’s not an effective social strategy for building or maintaining connections.
Recommends avoiding small talk
The course recommends finding topics to talk about with your target contact before you meet with them so you can avoid small talk.
But, small talk can be a great way to keep your conversations with them balanced. If you stay in “deep” conversation for too long, you’ll likely hit a point in the conversation where it becomes “awkward” because you’ve stayed in “self-disclosure talk” (which is typically more on the emotional side) for too long.
Simplifies and shortens the networking process
If you’re on a hard push for lots of connections in a short amount of time, you might not see this as a pro right now.
But, for those of you who are already booked up and busy with other priorities, Clark’s methods for making networking a low-effort part of daily life is truly valuable.
Professional Networking (6.5/10): I reference a lot of her ideas and approaches in The Clever Connector from this very course because her strategies are so great.
With that said though, there are other networking courses on the market right now that might provide a better return on your investment if you’re looking for a program that truly takes you through the networking process from “A” to “Z”.
You can get more ideas in this course on social strategy.