Networking is often misunderstood. That's the premise of Stand Out Networking: A Simple And Authentic Guide To Meeting People on Your Own Terms. The author, Dorie Clark, sets out to clear those misperceptions. Much of what she has to say is especially relevant for those of us working to practice thought leadership.

According to Clark, networking is much more than handing out business cards and sizing up what you can get from people. She sees it much more holistically, finding that networking "isn't just about growing your business; it's about expanding your life with the kind of interesting people you'd like to surround yourself with."

If you want to stop feeling sleazy and you want to make it meaningful here are seven suggestions to follow.

1. Bring the right mindset. Networking isn't just a business strategy but the cornerstone of every relationship in our lives. And, like most things, the right frame of mind makes a huge difference in your experience--and your success. Clark finds that the right mindset is about cultivating relationships over time, finding common ground that cements your bond, and discovering ways you can be helpful and make someone else's life better. That's a great way to live life in general, but it also benefits you professionally. 

2. Go deep. Clark describes the satisfying "click" that happens when you meet someone you immediately connect with. But if you don't approach networking strategically, she warns, networking can be "a frustrating and even forlorn experience." Her advice?  Connect in greater depth with fewer people. Then you'll look back and remember actual people, not just a blur of faces and names.

3. Network online. Online networking allows us to make connections that otherwise might not have been possible, says Clark. "You can send a tweet to a celebrated leader, and sometimes they'll respond right back to you. You can approach an author or entrepreneur you respect, who may charge thousands of dollars for her advice, and get a free hour of her time because you're interviewing her for a podcast that creates exposure, rather than weakly offering to buy coffee in exchange for an opportunity to pick her brain." Building your proficiency at online networking greatly widens your reach.

4. Maintain momentum. According to Clark, maintaining connections is just as important as making them. No matter how busy you are, there is always time for people who are important to you. She reminds us that the strength of your network determines the opportunities you're exposed to, now and later.

5. Be deliberate about nurturing relationships. If you have a relationship that needs repair, whatever went wrong, apologize immediately for your part in the problem, respond quickly, and learn from your mistakes. Clear up your negative dynamics, says Clark, and "you have more people rooting for you, rather than against you, and they'll be inclined to support your success."

6. Make your own luck. Clark calls it "work[ing] hard at becoming luckier." When you embrace a mindset of opportunity--by taking a genuine interest in people and staying open to diverse ideas--luck has a way of finding you. The results benefit you and open you up to help others.

7. Become wildly connected. As you grow your network, Clark predicts, something really powerful will happen. You will begin to notice that you are the person who knows people and you are the one who can connect people. What started as you looking to connect takes a different shape as you become a connector.  You meet more people, and of course pass it along by introducing them to other connectors.

For many of us, networking still might be something that is daunting and uncomfortable or maybe a sleazy word.  But the foundational skills of making connections, creating relationships, and helping others learn to do the same, make your sphere of influence truly vast.

Will you try networking in a more meaningful way? If so, let me know how your next networking event goes.