By Greg Sullivan, LLM 2004
Do you hate networking? Some of my friends do, because they see networking as a necessary evil, like going to the dentist. I think networking suffers from an image problem. Perhaps this is a carry-over from the go-go 90s, when people networked aggressively, thrusting business cards into the “target’s” hand.
If you are a successful networker, it’s because you see networking as relationship building. It’s give and take, where you are adding value to the conversation. Perhaps you identify an industry trend, or provide information about an interesting new software app. Maybe you give encouragement as the person grapples with a work problem. Think of what you can offer the person.
Here are my top tips for success in networking, which I re-imagine as relationship building.
1. Be yourself. If you’re an extrovert, you usually are a good networker because you enjoy people. If you’re an introvert, you can still ace networking because you don’t like talking about yourself. You typically listen and ask questions. That is excellence in networking!
2. Prepare a witty, generic introduction. “Hi, I’m Greg Sullivan. My Mum would want me to tell you that I’m a lawyer, which is true, but instead of a traditional practice, I help other lawyers leverage technology and project management processes to better serve their clients.”
3. Ditch the sales pitch. You want to make a connection, not a sale. Listen and ask questions.
4. Ask easy but interesting questions. What are the person’s passions, hobbies, interests? This person has a life beyond work.
5. Don’t hijack the conversation. Remember to ask the person about themself; don’t make it all about you.
6. Ask for advice, not a job. If you are job searching, do not ask the person if they are aware of any openings. Instead, ask for advice. “I am interested in x industry. Can you suggest how I might break into the field? Do you know anyone who might be able to give me additional insights into the field?”
7. Follow-up. You have a maximum of 48 hours to follow-up; after that, the person has forgotten you. Mention something specific about the conversation that you enjoyed. If you can forward an interesting article, even better.
8. Leverage our LSE community. Our alumni community in Canada is filled with interesting people from all walks of life. Take the opportunity to attend alumni events – virtual or live — and test out some of the suggestions above!
About the Author
Greg Sullivan, LLM 2004
Partner, Deloitte Canada
Past Vice-Chair, LSE Global Alumni Association; Past President, CFLSE