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Master Class: How to Network, Part 1

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“Go forth and network” may be one of the most hackneyed pieces of advice you can hear in the business world. Whatever it is you seek—a prospect, a client, a promotion, a new career—networking is usually offered as the answer. But according to Vickie Milazzo, successful businesswoman and author of “Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman,” many people are not networking the right way.

“I see many people investing a lot of time and energy into meeting new people and making those people like them,” explained Milazzo. “The problem is, they’re making connections with the wrong people or they’re approaching the right people the wrong way…or both!”

Milazzo began her professional life as a nurse and later started a company that consults with attorneys on medically related cases. She built up her company by cultivating relationships with a select group of people who could help her achieve success, in her case, attorneys.

“To see good results, you need to know what type of person can help you and where you can meet these individuals,” she said. “You also need to build meaningful relationships once you do meet the right people. It’s all about being smart and being selective.”

Here are five tips from Milazzo on how to network most effectively:

  1. Don’t just socialize—select. Traditional networking holds that every new person you meet is a networking contact. But unless you and your new friend have professional common ground, your efforts will be wasted.
  2. Make sure your group makes sense. Understand that even among professionals, not all networking contacts will be beneficial. You must build a personalized network of colleagues, clients, consultants, vendors and acquaintances you can call on for advice, information or referrals. “It’s worth it to research the makeup of a group before you join or the guest list of an event before you RSVP,” said Milazzo.
  3. Aim higher. It may be comfortable to spend time with people who share your interests, etc., but when it comes to networking you need to get to the people who can help you, and they may not be at your level or share your interests. According to Milazzo, “If you impress someone who is more successful than you are, they’ll have a lot more influence than someone whose position is equivalent with yours.”
  4. Know when to cut ties. Don’t waste time mining a dead prospect. No matter how selective you were on the front end, don’t make the mistake of spending time with a group if you aren’t seeing the results you desire.
  5. Target your networking efforts. If you cast a wide net, you can catch many potential contacts, but it’s difficult to build a significant relationship with any one of them. According to Milazzo, if you zero in on one or two, you can build stronger, more meaningful relationships. “You’ll get to know their wants and needs and they’ll have a better understanding of yours.”

More of Milazzo’s networking tips next week.

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