Networking 101

Justin Runquist

It’s not often you meet a guy like Ziggy.

He’s the type who always throws the great parties, always remembers your birthday and always makes it a priority to talk about topics he knows you will find interesting.

Ziggy is a likable guy, but as Harvey Mackay acknowledges, he is also the consummate “networker.” Mackay uses Ziggy as the preface for his book, “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty: The Only Networking Book You’ll Ever Need.”

I can only hope to be like Ziggy. My relationships with friends around here aren’t quite perfect and I surely do not have near the networking expertise of, say, Villanova Career Services experts. So, what makes me – a college sophomore – qualified to write advice about networking?

Because in the short time I’ve read Mackay’s book, it’s had a significant impact in my personal business endeavors. I want to share some of the Mackay strategies that have been working for me.

It’s the small stuff that counts.

As my father preaches, “Most people can fake the big stuff. It’s the true friends that do the small things.” Basically, be sincere to others. When you talk to people, look them in the eyes. Make them feel important. Be a good listener and ask good questions. Mackay believes most people try “30-second bonding maneuvers,” where, after a half-minute, the perpetrator is asking for your name again. Simple genuineness can go a long way.

Always do your homework.

Take it from the Boy Scouts: “Be prepared.” With the evolution of Google and Yahoo, there are no more excuses for unawareness. Before meeting with someone, know the current news, the buzzwords around the organization and the relevant stock quotes of the day.

Talk in the terms of other people’s interests.

Dale Carnegie said it best: “You can make more friends in two months by becoming really interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” I don’t know much about politics or history, but if my friend or co-worker does, I usually try to take our conversations in that direction.

Remember the names of people you meet.

Think of how special you feel when someone, especially a mere acquaintance, calls you by name the moment she sees you. Memorizing names isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. Another thing: adding a simple smile into this name introduction is really important.

Remember birthdays.

Birthdays are like a golden ticket to an enduring friendship. People never forget those like Ziggy who remember their birthdays. I’ve been adding the birthdays of friends, acquaintances, co-workers and business contacts into my scheduler. And the quick birthday e-mails or card usually mean the world to them.

Get organized.

Act!, Microsoft Outlook, Rolodexes, Day-Timers and my personal favorite, the Palm Pilot, are all essential tools one should use for building a network. Meet a potential employer today? Quickly jot down that bit they told you about their kids or dog and store it away. Ask them about that the next time and you just made an outstanding impression.

Create a road map for your goals and get going.

Mackay advises readers to join organizations that will quickly expand their networks. So I listened to his advice. I joined The Villanovan. Not exactly because I aspired to write 10,000 words a week, but because I knew it could be a ticket to places I wanted to go. Being a writer for the paper has provided me with reasons to make some good contacts: in the C&F dean’s office, at The Wall Street Journal and the Pennsylvania Governor’s office, to name a few.

Network as if your life depended on it.

Because it does. Nurture your relationships: you never know where it may lead. That department chair you’ve considered talking to may have the contact that could launch your career. Grades, awards and a good smile may propel you far. But a great contact can skip you right to the finish line.

How do you know you’ve become the next Ziggy, or the ultimate networker? When are you officially the go-to guy for someone? Mackay puts it this way: When you can honestly and realistically count on someone to help you at 2 a.m., you know you’re an excellent friend.