Make Your Contacts Count – Networking Know-How for Business and Career Success

Networking is a necessary and often derided skill. To most, its rules are ambiguous and the concept overwhelming. In their fifth book, coauthors Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon explain the rules of the game.

I met with Lynne Waymon last week to discuss networking and her new book, “Make Your Contacts Count”. She told me a little about her background through an anecdote. Her story was short and sweet, but it gave me the basics of who she was. It highlighted her tenacity, adaptability and knowledge in the areas of training and group dynamics. After all, she was preparing to facilitate a training session later that afternoon for another association in town.

As she explained, “Your job is to teach people about who you are, what you need and what you have to give.” The best way to explain all of those things is through a story. You need to be able to tell your story at a moment’s notice, and it should demonstrate something about your character and competency straight away.

That’s when she turned the tables on me by asking for my story. I told her that I didn’t have anything prepared. I wasn’t ready. I was coming to interview her, not the other way around. With a gentle smile and a lilt of her head, she quickly put me at ease. She said, “That’s where the rules of engagement come into play. By following a few simple steps, you can easily move past your intimidation of talking to a stranger.”

Most casual conversations revolve around three basic questions, or moments as Baber and Waymon describe them. There will be a name exchange, “Hi, I’m Dave.” Someone will ask, “What do you do?—I’m a chemist.”, and then finally you’ll get the inevitable, “How are you today?—Fine.” Just as quickly as the conversation was initiated, it is over without a real connection.

The key to initiating a connection is to be ready to answer these questions in a meaningful way. “A good story gives your contact a vivid picture of what you do,” said Waymon. “It doesn’t have to be long, but it should give insight to your character and your competency.”

To compose your story, think back to your childhood. Children’s stories have four basic parts:

  • The beginning: Once upon a time…
  • The set-up: suddenly…
  • The turn-around: luckily…
  • The ending: …happily ever after.

For your story, think of a key moment in your life when you saved the day, served a customer, demonstrated commitment, or solved a tricky problem. These are the kinds of stories that will demonstrate your character and competence, and that is what will make you interesting to others.

According to Waymon, most people know about 250 people. However, few people have cultivated their contacts into the networks that they need to succeed. To help you, your contacts must trust you and know of your abilities, success stories and your challenges. Furthermore, you must know theirs. You have to realize that your network is an investment of your time and of yourself. It is really about getting to know people.

Among the other topics in the book, Baber and Waymon discuss the characteristics of the ideal network, conversation do’s and don’ts, stages of relationships, and the types of contacts.

This article was written by David Harwell, Ph.D., assistant director of the ACS Department of Career Management and Development.

6 Responses to Make Your Contacts Count – Networking Know-How for Business and Career Success

  1. Assissotom says:

    Greetings Very good web site. I loved it. Found invaluable information. Just what I was looking for 🙂 Regards and best wishes

  2. […] January 18, 2008 by Patricia Just read an article on the ACS Careers Blog about creating your “own story” […]

  3. Rebecca Towell says:

    I am new to the business networking scene. In the past two months I started working with a career coach. His business is called “Career Networking Pro.” I’m learning new and different ways to network but want to remain polished in my face-to-face cold networking situations. This evening I will attend a networking event where I may possibly not know a sole and I doubt anyone will know me. I have a personal business card I will use to obtain business cards from others. I guess I just want to chat, via e-mail, with someone else who is a pro at working a crowd and meeting new people for job networking opportunities. Please feel free to e-mail me with any suggestions you may have to help me.

    Thank you, Rebecca T.

  4. Vic Bossert says:

    I am totally new at running a business and I am told that networking is essential for the road to success.
    I don’t even know how to get into meeting people with whom I could converse. I have started a foreign trade business mainly for raw materials required.
    When I look at how little progress I’ve made I feel quite smothered.
    Your article looks to be so easy.
    Thank you and if you have any comment to make regarding places to meet the right people please advise.

  5. Vic –

    Professional associations are a great place to start. We certainly encourage you to join the American Chemical Society, but if that is not your cup of tea, try joining an association within your specialty.

  6. John says:

    Absolutely important point on cultivating your contacts especially during these times.

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