networking, become a connector
Photos by Getty Images

Become a Connector to Boost Your Networking Skills

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: I'm trying to network as much as possible, but I wonder if I'm missing something. Any thoughts on how I can be a more effective networker?

A: It sounds like you understand that networking is a key to any successful job search. Networking comes easy to some people who enjoy meeting new people online or in person, but others struggle with how to make good connections.

If you've read Malcolm Gladwell's bestseller The Tipping Point, you may remember he talks about "connectors." It's a pretty simple concept: Connectors help other people meet. But here's the real benefit to being a connector: The people you connect are more likely to refer you to other opportunities since you've gone out of your way to help them.

Start by asking good questions to strike up conversations with people you meet anywhere, not just at networking events.

Being a connector also gives you a clear purpose at networking events. If you go to a networking event with the goal of connecting two of your contacts, you may be less nervous about talking to others. And, to connect others, you should know something about each person so you can identify what they have in common—in other words, you'll want to connect people with a shared interest, profession, or need.

Start by asking good questions of people you meet anywhere, not just at networking events. Strike up a conversation in the checkout line at the grocery store, at a sporting event, at your place of worship, or at your kid's school event. And don't forget about the power of connecting with other professionals on social media like LinkedIn.

If you're connecting people online, ask each one if it's all right with them if you do a virtual connection. If they agree, send a quick email to both parties, sharing what they have in common, and then get out of their way. Follow up in a month or so to see if they've stayed in touch. This will remind them that you connected them.

Being a connector usually pays off. It may not result in overnight success, but most people are genuinely thankful for a good introduction and may introduce you to your next great opportunity.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you'd like her to answer in "Ask the Expert"? Send it to [email protected]