Written by Karyn Keene
Networking is a bit like dating. You go through that awkward stage where you try desperately to find things to do and talk about. You’re both trying to decide if you want to keep moving forward. This whole series has, to keep the dating analogy, been the lead up to asking for the first date. You’ve found out about the person, talked about them, talked about you…and now it’s time to decide. Do you want to move forward or let this one fall to the side?
Phase 4: Landing the Connection
How do you know if you want to stay in touch with a person? It’s a difficult question, and unfortunately you only have 5-10 minutes to decide in the course of a conversation. So here are a few tips to help make that decision a bit easier:
Are you having a good time? If you both are sincerely having an enjoyable conversation, odds are better that you’d enjoy collaborating.
Does this seem mutually beneficial? Do you both have something to offer the other, if not now at least down the road? If so, this points towards a positive collaboration.
- Are you both interested? It’s all fine and well if you are having a great time, but keep an eye on your potential connection. Are they also enjoying themselves, or are they biding their time until you leave?
- Does the person seem good? Now I’m not arguing for moral perfection here, but having similar viewpoints on what is and is not okay in a working relationship is vital for a healthy connection. Sometimes it’s hard to find this out in the first conversation, but keep it in mind.
- Do you see any red flags? If you notice problems now, they won’t go away (remember, it’s like dating). So if you have a bad feeling about the person, put off by arrogance or mediocrity, don’t be afraid to politely bow out and thank them for talking with you. You’re not obligated to give contact information, so don’t be afraid to walk away.
After considering these questions, you should have a better idea of whether or not you want to stay in touch. It’s not a promise to work together; it’s just dating—you’re not official yet.
If you decide not to stay in touch, find a natural close to your conversation. But if the person offers keep contact with you, you have two options. You can politely let him know you are not interested at this time or you can ask him for a business card if you have a chance to get together in the future. You can give your card to him in return, but it’s not necessary. Not giving your business card is a subtle way of letting someone know you are not interested in seriously connecting.
If you would like to stay in touch, then find a natural way to close the conversation and then ask if they’d like to stay in touch. If they say yes, be the first to offer your contact information so they don’t feel like you are just fishing for business cards. Then, hopefully, they’ll give you their information back and there you go! Connection made. Easy, right?
From here the possibilities are as endless and exciting as the people you connect with. You never know who you’ll meet or what impact you’ll have on each other’s lives. Networking is an exciting opportunity and not really that difficult once you get the hang of it.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on Relational Networking and found it helpful. For more of the series, see part one on making connections and part two on learning to talk about yourself. Also, if you want to get some good ideas on what to do once you’ve made a connection, check out Sarah Yoon’s series on Collaboration.