Network Like It's 1959
In fashion, what's old is often new again.
If you doubt it, just look at the styles coming out this spring: 1950s-style dresses for women and streamlined suits for men just like the characters in Mad Men.
You may also want to heed another fashion from that era: in-person networking.
You're not likely to see anyone on Mad Men use online social networking to forge a relationship although they do put the "social" in networking with their lunch meetings and after-hour soirees. If you watch those interactions, you'll see a good example of how the art of building relationships has been lost through too much reliance on technical gadgets, one expert says.
Vicky Oliver, author of numerous books on career development such as 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions, says it's time that people learned some of the best techniques for networking don't come from friending someone on Facebook or tweeting tidbits to strangers. While she believes those social networks are useful, we all should learn to embrace "retro" techniques.
Of course, not everyone will like the idea of coming out from behind their computers and entering a roomful of strangers to network or getting on the phone to ask someone for help, she says.
"Everybody is shy," she says. "But it gets better with practice. Even striking up a 2-minute conversation with someone while waiting somewhere is a good chance to practice your skills."
So you have to put away your smartphone or drop the iPad and learn to take every opportunity to interact with someone face to face. Here are some of Oliver's suggestions for honing your networking skills:
• Travel the friendly skies. Join an airline club so you have time to mingle with others in an airport lounge.
Use layover times in airports to schedule meetings with someone in that city. Use an online golf club to book a game with other business travelers once you reach your destination.
• Volunteer. The great thing about working at a food bank or other community event is that you'll meet a diverse group of people from your area in a relaxed setting.
Not only will you make a good first impression because you're volunteering your time but you'll also feel an immediate connection with others because you support the same cause. It's often easier to strike up a conversation while boxing food or doing some other task where you don't feel as if you're in the spotlight.
• See life as a team sport. Join activities where you'll be around lots of other people.
Joining collectors at hobby shows, participating in a biking club or even starting your own book group will help you develop interpersonal skills and potentially lead to valuable professional connections.
• Learn from the masters. Next time you're at a social or professional gathering, look for the person who seems to be the life of the event.
That person is a master connector who is comfortable in such an arena and can be key in introducing you to others.
Don't fret that you'll be bothering the person if you introduce yourself and ask for help in meeting others because such people thrive in building relationships. Pay attention to the person's body language, tone of voice and the topics of conversation because these are all lessons you want to learn.
• Make social networking more useful. Using Twitter and Facebook can be helpful in making initial contact with someone but pursue tweet-ups in person or make an appointment to meet someone from Facebook at a conference you're both attending.
With LinkedIn, consider removing your "anonymous" tag when viewing someone else's profile.
"This will then let you see who is looking you up," Oliver says. "When I did it I was absolutely shocked to see who was looking at my profile. It can help you follow up and make a good contact."