The following article of mine on networking tips was published in the May/June 2012 issue of Information Outlook, the magazine of the Special Libraries Association.
Tips for Networking
By Qin Tang, MLS
When I think about networking, it’s not so much about what to do–it’s more about a state of mind, about being, about building trust and relationships. With this in mind, I would like to share 10 tips for networking.
Be authentic. Be yourself. Be original. Be genuine. To be authentic means that your statements, actions, words, and deeds are aligned with your underlying character. You must be yourself, because if you are not, it will be obvious to others around you. So don’t try to be someone else to impress others, or try to hide your true self. One way to be original and authentic is to tell personal stories that are unique to you.
Be curious. Being curious and asking questions can increase your knowledge while also opening new doors and relationships. Take the initiative and engage people in conversations. When you show interest in people and ask them questions, they generally are happy to talk.
Be approachable. Be approachable when other people take the initiative and start a conversation with you. Sometimes people will ask an ice-breaking question that might sound insensitive or mindless to you, but their intention is simply to engage you in conversation. Don’t be offended by other people’s questions or comments.
Be present. Nothing is more valuable than your time, so give the gift of your presence in times of need. Be attentive and focused when you are with someone. Practice active listening. Pay attention to your body language. Use your cellphone or other electronic devices only when there is an emergency.
Be open. Share your genuine thoughts, feelings, successes, failures, joys, concerns, and fears with people. When you are willing to be vulnerable, you will open up hearts and possibilities and deepen friendships and relationships.
Be humble. Nothing turns off a person more than someone who is arrogant. No one enjoys being around someone who knows it all or thinks he knows it all and likes to put others down. Everyone has unique talents, skills, and experiences to share.
Be respectful. Being respectful is an integral part of being professional. Be respectful of other people and their time. Keep your promises and honor your commitments.
Be mindful. People come in all sizes, shapes and colors, with different backgrounds, belief systems, values, opinions, and preferences. Be mindful of the differences. Don’t judge others or make assumptions.
Be positive. Everyone likes to be around people who are positive and emanate positive energy. Be a person who has a big smile, a kind word, a grateful heart, and a gentle spirit.
Be appreciative. Always, always thank people for their service, their assistance, and their gifts. A thank-you note via e-mail is good; a hand-written note is even better. A thoughtful gift, no matter how big or small, can create a memorable impression and a lasting relationship. A small gift along with a hand-written note would be most impressive and greatly appreciated.
I want to end with a few personal experiences to illustrate my points. I have an inquisitive mind and like to ask questions. I enjoy talking to people and getting to know them, even strangers. So I often initiate conversations, especially when I am around people very closely, such as sitting next to someone during a flight. In fact, a couple of the most interesting and deep conversations I have had with other people occurred on flights.
You never know whom you will meet or what you will learn. For example, a gentleman walked into the library recently to request a Wi-Fi password. When I learned that his last name is Coleman, I asked whether he was related to the prominent Coleman family in St. Paul (Nick Coleman, Sr. was a state senator, Chris Coleman is currently the mayor of St. Paul, Nick Coleman is a well-known newspaper columnist, and Pat Coleman is a curator and librarian with whom I would be meeting the following week for work-related reasons). To my amazement, he said, “Yes, I am.” He was Emmett Coleman, a vice president at Comcast. I felt connected instantly, and we had an interesting conversation.
Recently, three librarians from the Donaldson Company in Bloomington, Minnesota, visited our library, which had just received an award for a remodeling project. The Donaldson librarians wanted to learn about our experience, and they received a warm welcome along with a library tour.
A few days later, our library staff was surprised by the delivery of milk and freshly baked chocolate cookies–a thank-you gift from the librarians at Donaldson. This experience has certainly created a special bond between the two libraries.
QIN TANG is a technical services librarian at the Minnesota Department of Transportation. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.