By Connie Felder, Deputy Director
If you are a serious job seeker or career climber, a must-read for improving your ability to go beyond networking to building more meaningful relationships is Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Black Book of Connections. I also recommend his Little Red Book of Selling because both of these little gems will help you improve your ability to network, make win-win connections, land a job, advance your career, and most importantly, be a better person.
The Little Black Book of Connections is full of tips, tools and exercises that you can put into action to improve your ability to build long-lasting relationships. Here are Gitomer’s “Rules of Connecting”:
1. Everything will fall into place if you smile and are friendly to those you meet.
People want to do business with individuals they like and trust. We are drawn to friendly people. People who smile (and thus, appear friendly) are found to be more attractive than those who don’t. Smiling establishes a positive first impression and opens the door to communication. How friendly are you?
2. Project a confident self-image.
Your personal appearance, handshake and body language say a lot about how you feel about yourself. Others will be attracted to you if you portray a positive, self-assured appearance. What do your non-verbals say about you?
3. Eye contact equates to self-respect.
Lack of eye contract can send a non-verbal message of dishonesty and disrespect. If you find it difficult to look people in the eye try practicing this skill by looking from a person’s eye to their nose and back or even looking at a person’s eyebrow. As you grow more confident in yourself, the ability to look others in the eye will become easier. How do you feel when others do not make eye contact with you?
4. A positive attitude will generate positive responses and results.
Your attitude shines through in everything you say and do. The way in which you respond to others and thus, their perception of you is impacted in large part by your attitude or your outlook on life. The words you choose to communicate will reflect a positive or negative outlook. Without a positive attitude, your words can sound cynical, harsh, or even angry. Do you communicate a positive attitude when making new connections?
5. Risk taking is an inherent part of the networking experience.
Like anything else in life, preparation improves one’s chance of experiencing a positive and successful networking experience and as we experience success our self-confidence grows. It is only through mistakes and resulting pain that we learn and become everything we are capable of being. Are you taking risks that will benefit your job search and career development?
6. Being prepared can make the difference between success or lack of success.
Preparation takes commitment, hard work, and persistence. There is no such thing as being overprepared. Most are either unprepared or under-prepared. If you want to differentiate yourself from the pack then prepare by practicing your elevator speech, preparing success stories, researching your connections, etc. When you attend a networking function, how prepared are you?
7. When networking, the less you focus on the reason you are networking, the more successful you will be.
Focus first and foremost on being genuine, friendly and establishing trust in order to build a relationship. Win-win relationships involve mutual give and take. Focus on giving first and you will reap the long-term benefits of a relationship that will give back many times. Are you focused on creating short-term associations or building long-term relationships?
8. Demonstrate a genuine interest in others.
If you’re trying to connect with another person, you should try to get to know them. Ask questions about them and practice good listening skills. People love to talk about themselves. Do you prepare questions that will help you get to know the person you are trying to connect with?
9. When you find common ground, most barriers disappear.
If you establish common ground, others will like you, begin to trust you and connect with you on a deeper level. The best way to win the connection is to first win the person. A connection goes from casual to personal if you have shared experiences and passions. The challenge is uncovering the common ground. Are you willing to commit the time it takes to find common ground?
10. The higher up the ladder a person is, the more suspicious she/he will be of your motives.
We all want to connect with influential high profile individuals who are well-connected in the community. It is important to remember that the same relationship building guidelines apply to these individuals as well as those with less influence. We must take the time to build trust and confidence and give back, not just take. Are you targeting high level connections?
11. Your reputation today determines your future.
Reputation is a continuous building process earned through all actions and non-actions. The reputation you build today will affect your future success. What do people say about you behind your back? What reputation would you like to have?
12. All of your actions are being judged by others all of the time.
You can’t just look first-class; you must always act in a first-class way. You need to always do what you say you will do because others remember promises made. Do you follow-through and do what you say you will do?
13. Provide a benefit or value.
One-sided connections are short-lived; connections based on value will last the test of time. Give first rather than ask for something first. Help others so they can look forward to helping you back. Do you provide as many benefits as those you expect to get?
14. Articulate your message.
Your image is dependent upon excellent verbal as well as non-verbal communications skills. What you say to others and how you say things is a reflection of who they think you are. As you speak, others are thinking and deciding who you are, whether they like you, whether they want to want to take the next step with you. How good are you at communicating your message in a way that compels action on the part of others?
15. What happens after the first connection is more important then what happened at the first connection.
Remember, you are trying to develop relationships which are built over time by a series of communications and actions. Do you communicate regularly and are you adding value to the relationship?
16. Be prepared to making connections any time and any place.
Be alert to your surroundings and the possibilities. They are everyone, everywhere. Do you meet new people every day? Do you place yourself in situations which maximize the potential for making connections?
17. Be yourself, act real and others will reciprocate.
Being yourself has several advantages including the self-evidence of it to others and the personal comfort-level you feel and therefore project. It creates an atmosphere for open dialogue and honest communication. The questions you ask, ideas you express, your communication style, combined with your attitude, beliefs, and passions are the fundamentals for what it takes to connect with others. How true to yourself are you? How real are you in the presence of others?
Here are some great quotes from Jeffrey Gitomer’s The Little Black Book of Connections:
“Your mother taught you everything you need to know about connecting before you were 10 years old: Make friends, play nice, tell the truth, take a bath, do your homework.”
“The question you have to ask yourself is: How can I make people better as a result of connecting with me? This is not just a strategy to connect at a networking event, this is a strategy to connect with anyone, anywhere, at any time.”
“There’s only two big decisions in life – where you’re going, and who you’re going to take with you.”
Connie Felder is Deputy Director of RochesterWorks! With almost 20 years’ experience in youth and adult workforce preparation programs, Connie is passionate about the career development process and the importance of individuals taking responsibility for their career journey in order to realize their full potential. Connie has held jobs since she was 12 years old and believes that purposeful work is a primary vehicle for personal growth and self-actualization. Connie holds a Master’s degree in counseling.