Tom Gimbel, CEO of the LaSalle Network
By Tom Gimbel
July 28, 2015

The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: What’s the best way to network? is written by Tom Gimbel, CEO of the LaSalle Network.

Networking is the ability to meet new professional contacts and create dialogue and interest to a point where they want to be associated with you in an unofficial relationship. Generating mutual interest is the most important factor. You can go to hundreds of events and get thousands of business cards, but if the other person has no interest in you (and your organization, service, or product), then you haven’t networked. You’ve collected information. Information without relationships is simply a collection. Not much better than a stamp collection.

And that’s the problem a lot of novice business people have created with LinkedIn (LNKD). They are gathering a “network” of people without actually knowing the majority of them. So you may appear great on LinkedIn but essentially all you’re doing is communicating with strangers that know nothing about you. That’s not networking. So here are five ways to network effectively beyond LinkedIn:

  1. A good contact can come from anywhere. So don’t limit yourself to only networking functions. Network anywhere and everywhere you can: sporting events, cocktail parties, elevators, bars. It’s about talking in a friendly, non-confrontational way. Some people won’t be responsive, and if that’s the case move on to the next person, but always be nice.
  2. Carry business cards on you everywhere you go. Even on the weekends. Keep a few in your wallet or purse. If you say you’re going to follow up with someone, do so. You can find anyone even if they don’t have a business card by looking on LinkedIn; however, don’t try to connect with someone on LinkedIn you barely know. Give it some time or a good conversation, then send a personalized message to connect.
  3. Practice being good at small talk. The more you read, the more you will know, the more things you can discuss. I challenge my staff to listen to one podcast a week about anything they desire. This helps expose you to different topics. It will make you a better person and a better networker.
  4. Make an initiative to attend events that you wouldn’t normally. If you only go to things you like, you will never expand your horizons. Attending a variety of events allows you to meet people who can help you in different ways.
  5. This may be the most important thing to ask yourself when networking: What can you do for others? Whether it’s a skill, contact, or good conversation always find ways to reciprocate the favor.

Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question: What’s the best way to network?

How to work a room at an important networking event by Carol Leaman, CEO of Axonify.

The one question you have to ask everyone you network with by Clark Valberg, CEO of InVision.

3 signs you’re a serial meet-and-greet networker by Shadan Deleveaux, director of sales multicultural beauty division at L’Oréal USA.

Forget what you know about networking. Do this instead by Jim Yu, CEO of BrightEdge.

3 networking mistakes you don’t know you’re making by Dan Finnigan, CEO of Jobvite.

Why face-to-face networking will never go out of style by Kevin Chou, co-founder and CEO of Kabam.

How to effectively network (even if you dread it) by David DeWolf, president and CEO of 3Pillar Global.

The only thing you need to keep in mind when networking by William Craig, founder and president of WebpageFX.

Why social media alone won’t get you a job by Gary Vaynerchuk, co-founder and CEO of VaynerMedia.

NYSE President: I owe every job I’ve ever had to networking by Tom Farley, president of the NYSE.

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