Become a Better Networker

Kevin Shulman, president of sales training firm Shulman and Associates, offers networking tips for ChemE's

For CEP's October's Career Corner "Career Success through Networking," columnist Loraine Kasprzak, CMC, interviewed Kevin Shulman, president of Shulman Associates, an Iselin, NJ, sales training and client development firm.

Shulman, who teaches networking skills to professionals, says, "There are thousands of talented professionals out there. The successful ones aren't necessarily the ones who do the best work, but the ones who get noticed and get connected to people who can make things happen for them. As a professional, you're president of YOU INC, and you have to realize it's more about who you know than about what you know."

Here are more insights from Loraine's conversation with Kevin:

Many engineers understand that sales aren't what they do best. If you're on partner track or head an engineering firm, for example, you need to be bringing in clients. Networking is an easier way to find that next client, without having to sell so hard.

Networking isn't about selling. It's about giving first. The person who gives the most, tend to get the most. If you give the most referrals, you will tend to get more in return. Don't be a taker - be a giver.

Sooner or later, engineers wind up at a professional conference or trade show with opportunities to network. Even if you're a shy person, you can learn to network at professional events. Look around the room for another shy person - go up to them and ask, "Do you hate this as much as I do?" Then when you end the conversation, ask the other person, "Would you do me a favor, can you introduce me to someone here who you know that I don't?" Repeat this step with each person you meet. This can get you daisy-chained around the room and meeting more people.

The biggest networking mistake Shulman has seen was at a local Chamber of Commerce meeting. There, he met someone at the bar and asked him what he did for a living. "This person talked for 20 minutes and didn't come up for air. He never asked me what I did," says Shulman. "If you want to network successfully you have to have a two-way conversation."

Here are more networking do's and don'ts:

DON'T go and hang out with your friends and the people you know. Make an effort to meet new people.

DO decide before you walk in that you're going to have a certain number of conversations with people you haven't met yet. Setting this goal is a great way to know you've done your job at the event.

DON'T drink when you're networking - you're never as sharp after one drink as you are before.

DO have the other person speak first. When you meet someone you have to answer, "What do you do?" Get them to talk first - this is easy to do because everyone wants to tell their story. Then while they're talking, you can figure out how you can help them. You can also be figuring out what your 30-second commercial should sound like based on who they are. Your commercial should be different based on who you're talking to - whether it's a senior partner or a small business owner - you can tailor your commercial. If you speak first, then you have to give them a generic commercial.

DO ask about the other person's ideal prospect. After the other person's 30-second commercial, say to them, "Can you describe for me what your ideal prospect looks like and how would I recognize them?" Then be prepared to help them, says Shulman.

What are your best networking tips? Share them in the Comments section below.