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Networking is a give-and-take process that requires staying connected to others by making it a point to attend gatherings, interact with people and make others feel good about themselves. It includes doing favors, acknowledging others for their achievements and introducing them to those who may be of assistance. In turn, these people are only a phone call away when you need help. Here are some tips for effective networking: SET GOALS Just as it is important to plan your work and then work your plan, it is equally important to plan your networking and then determine if your “net” is working. The best way to do this is to make a schedule of networking activities and your purpose for attending those particular gatherings. Before attending these get-togethers, define your stated purpose for being there. For example, your goal may be to meet people who typically may not schedule time to meet in an office setting. After leaving a networking function, evaluate the goals you have accomplished. CREATE A PROFESSIONAL PRESENCE Plan a strategy for being seen in the best possible way. For instance, if your firm has a business-casual policy and the majority of people you are going to meet are likely to be dressed in a business-professional mode, then follow suit. No matter what your position, dress for the position you want rather than for the one you have. Whatever you do, never dress so that you must justify your appearance. BE PREPARED Always take plenty of business cards. Only offer cards to those who appear to want one. If you receive someone else’s card, be sure to make a point of looking at it for a moment and then comment on the logo or the person’s title. In other words, be more interested in what others tell you than in what you have to say to them. Show others that you are a good conversationalist by listening more than talking and then commenting on what you are told rather than associating what you heard with something that has happened to you. Let others know that they left an impression on you. Following the networking function, take a few minutes to jot down one thing that you learned about those you met. Write a note to everyone with whom you spoke within 48 hours of the networking event. Say that you enjoyed the meeting and mention something you learned about the person(s) or the organization(s) during the conversation. KNOW WHEN TO ARRIVE AND LEAVE Unless you are hosting a networking gathering, it is perfectly acceptable to arrive 15 to 20 minutes after it is scheduled to begin. By doing this, you will be able to mix and mingle immediately with individuals who have already arrived. You also will be able to introduce them to those who arrive later. The appropriate time to depart is also within 15 to 20 minutes before the gathering is scheduled to end. By leaving a little early, others will see that you appear to know how to manage your time rather than merely go with the flow or react to situations. MAKE OTHERS FEEL GOOD ABOUT THEMSELVES Compliment, compliment, compliment! When you meet someone, listen intently. Find a reason to give a compliment based on what you may have read about the person or her organization. If you are meeting someone for the first time and are unfamiliar with the person, base your comments on what you are hearing at the moment. For instance, if you learn that someone has been with a company for several years, compliment her on her longevity with the organization. Networking is a listening activity: Three-quarters of networking should be done through listening. By being a good listener, you demonstrate interest in others. Show you are listening by focusing on what is being said and by maintaining eye contact with the person speaking. You also can demonstrate listening by jotting down what you have heard and by paraphrasing what is said to you. EMPOWER PEOPLE Empowerment is defined as “giving power or authority to another.” When you are in a networking situation, you empower others by mentioning their achievements. For example, acknowledge a project with which a person has been involved. You also can empower others by acting as a mentor. By allowing an individual to be your “mentee,” that person will be able to associate herself with your achievements. MAKE IT WORK Networking is a two-way street. Not only should you be good to others by opening doors for them, be sure to be good to yourself. One way to do this is by making known the goals you want to achieve. For instance, when jotting someone a note, let the person know of your interest in volunteering to write an article in his professional organization’s newsletter, or mention that you have an open slot of time to volunteer on a particular committee. Recognize the long-term goals you want to achieve by accomplishing these short-term goals. Ann Marie Sabath is the founder of At Ease Inc., a business protocol and development training firm. She is the author of seven books on domestic and international etiquette.

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