red_pencilby Guest Author Virginia “Fireball Ginger” Trunkes, Esq.

Sharpen your pencils and sharpen your networking skills. We’re back-to-school and back-to-work.  It was fun and easy to make friends at the beach, at a BBQ, or on the back nine at the golf course; but those lazy hazy days of summer are over. Now we’re back to work, back to school and back to a schedule. It’s time to take your networking seriously. Try these seven tips we learned in college and apply them to your business and career, and you’ll definitely earn a gold star for your success.

1) Don’t Spend All of Your Time with the Same Clique. 

When you spend all your time with the same group, you limit the number and quality of opportunities you can obtain.  For example, if all your friends are techies just like you, how will you get creative marketing advice on your latest app? When everyone in your circle does, thinks and acts the same, “groupthink” creeps in, and limits creativity and growth. A diverse network is a valuable network. The original Spice Girls knew that having Sporty, Scary, Ginger, Baby and Posh gave them appeal to five times as many fans as just one personality would. So get out there and diversify.

2) Don’t Hide in the Back of the Class.  

People who contribute to discussions are perceived as leaders. When you stay quiet in class, or group meetings, it creates the impression that you are passive and have little insight to contribute. Being noticed, and being noticed in a positive light, is critical to building relationships, and to career success. Speak up and offer a productive idea now and then. Show your support for a great idea suggested by a colleague. Express your opinion. Don’t shut yourself up in the library or your office. Stand up, speak out, and stand out.

3) Ask Questions. 

Sometimes the teacher, presenter or your boss raises a topic that confuses people. It is almost always appropriate, and helpful to others, to ask for some clarification. You will be perceived as the brave smart person who is self-confident and generous enough to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Questions can also increase the depth of the discussion, help move a project forward by narrowing issues and avoid costly errors. Be curious.

4) Pace Yourself. 

Attending three networking events in a row may sound sexy, but if you spend only three minutes talking with each person, and don’t remember anyone you meet, your efforts may be counterproductive. Set realistic goals for what you want to accomplish at a specific event or in a specific time period.

5) Join a Study Group.

Join an industry organization, and get involved on a committee.  Organize a mastermind group. Attend a leads referral group. Interacting and sharing ideas and resources give you both intellectual and social benefits. Learn from others, and learn by teaching others.

6) Look at the Long-Term.

You didn’t ace your SAT’s with only one study session. You read a lot of books and study guides, worked with a tutor, and did your homework and practice tests on a regular basis. The same principle applies to networking – and life. Networking is an ongoing process. You can’t transform your career, your business or yourself in one night. You need continued effort and work to build meaningful relationships that will pay off over time. Each step in the process has a cumulative effect, by improving your skills, increasing your knowledge, and giving you access to new contacts and opportunities.

7) Take a Practice Test.

You can learn the basic concepts of interpersonal skills – or just about anything in life – from a book or a blog, but theory is just theory. It’s only when you practice and apply techniques in real life that you acquire and master new skills. Career growth, business growth, and professional development don’t happen in a research lab. Make your life your testing ground, and your playground.

So get out there, make new friends, take new classes, take risks, join in, and stand out. And you’ll get an A+ on everything you do.

Guest Author Virginia “Fireball Ginger” Trunkes, Esq.
Fireball Network Guest Author