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Whom You Know and How to Use Them

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So you think networking is a new phenomenon? A trend? A buzzword? Well, it hasexisted since time immemorial. Proof: "No room at the inn? Can you recommend a barn with a manger?"

Referrals, recommendations, and shared information are the foundation upon which civilization has been built. The community concept is built on communication. We just need toremember that civility is crucial in networking. How we behave is as crucial as knowing theunwritten rules that must be followed.

As one of my clients raised on a farm said, "Susan, we always networked. We just called it beingneighborly." Historically, barn raisings were the ultimate networking event. You hammer a lot more than your point across! And careers have always depended onnetworking: the assistance of others.

There are myths about networking that must be set straight. Networking is NOT a work style; itis a lifestyle that can enhance our personal and professional lives.

Myth: I don't have a network.

Truth: Everybody has a network. We are born into one. Consider the schools you went to: grammar, high school, college, religious schools. Think about your neighborhood, any armed forces you may have served in, clubs, bands, teams, fraternities/sororities, and service organizations.

Action: Know whom you know.

Even I don't have a 100% grasp, but as events happen, I remember people I know. Gothrough the periods of your life, the class photos and yearbooks. Visualize your neighborhoods andneighbors. List the names of people you remember. Think about the jobs you've had. Who were yourcolleagues, coworkers, competitors, vendors? You may want to do the activity on your computer, if you are so inclined, or, like myself, with paper andpencil. Go through old address books and Christmas card and holiday lists. Don't forget the peoplewho are in the periphery of your life yet are a great networking source: cleaner, barber/hairstylist, mechanic, computer consultant, car pool cronies, local merchants. You willnot remember everyone at the first sit-down. Once it is plugged into your truly personal computer(your brain), you will begin to remember more.

That list is a reference tool. How we use it is as important as when and for whom. It may be toconnect a nephew with a potential mentor. Or a colleague with a great mechanic. It is not alwaysabout us.

In time of need, people band together and help. We see it after earthquakes, fires, floods, whenfriends are stricken with illness. People are generally nice.

Myth: People should know what you need and offer to help.

Most people are happy to help when they are asked. At a marketing seminar we gave at thechamber of commerce over a decade ago, one attendee said that he was disappointed because otherpeople often didn't assist/help/return a favor. He asked, "Shouldn't people know what I need?"

Truth: Most people don't know what they need -- so how can you assume they know what youneed! A tenet of life and networking:

If you don't ask, the answer is always no.

RoAne's rule: How you ask may make the difference between yes and no!

Yes, Grandma was right. How you say it can be more important than what you say. The best networkers ask in a way that allows people to say yes -- and gives them room to say no.

One of my favorite cartoons had a character explaining, "What I lack in know-how, I made up forin know-who." Whom we know, and who knows us, is key. How to relate to and converse with thosepeople determines the quality of our connections.

People want to be treated as people, not as contacts.

The best networkers don't even know that they are networking -- they just do: refer, match,recommend, bring people together.

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