How do you network in a professional and courteous way?

Connecting with others and building relationships with people you don’t well is an art form, and like all good art, practice pays off.

The tips below will help you connect with others in a way that benefits everyone involved:

Respect the person’s time

Do not drop in uninvited, and if you telephone, always ask if you have chosen a good time to talk. Be aware of time zones.

Be careful with the word networking

Unless you are attending an event specifically for networking, refer to what you are doing as making connections, building relationships, and seeking advice.

Know your purpose

Do your homework so that you don’t ask questions that you could have answered through basic research. Review the section on informational interviews.

Listen carefully

When a person offers advice, listen attentively. Do not monopolize the conversation, and do not rush through it.

Keep the conversation positive

If you come across as negative and gossipy, or as someone who criticizes others, that impression with stick. You never know whom you person might know.

Ask for help in small doses

Ask more questions than favors. Do not burden the person with initial requests for additional contacts or job advice.

Get permission

Before using anyone’s name to approach a referral, make sure that you have permission to do so. Honor requests for confidentiality.

Follow up

If you are given referrals to additional people, follow up right away! Doing so will demonstrate that you are professional and serious.

Send a thank you note

Always send a thank you note after your meeting.

If you benefit from networking, how do you ‘pay it back’?