How Networking Really Works

Debunking the myths that prevent professionals from moving ahead

profile and bring you into contact with people you might not otherwise have ready access to. Morrison says he would attend retirement parties at Prudential for that reason.

“Especially if they were [for] a senior individual, because I was likely to meet someone I was looking to meet or talk to or follow up with,” he says.

The key to social networking is knowing your goal, figuring out who you need to know to facilitate that goal, and deciding where you’re most likely to find that person, experts say.

In some cases, you can do some homework in advance. If you’re attending a conference or panel discussion and want to approach a particular panelist, research the person. They may have been quoted in an article, compiled a paper, or may presently sit on several boards. Having that information beforehand will make you more confident and conversational in your approach.

Myth #3: It’s is a quick hit.
The most you can hope for at an initial meeting is to make a contact that, with care and time, could blossom into a fruitful relationship. The key is to view networking as a long-term career strategy and to be diligent about following up with contacts.

Always send a note no later than a week after the first exchange. Cousin recommends jotting down some information from your conversation on the back of a contact’s business card to make following up easier and more relative to your initial meeting. Following up should be continuous, he says. The benefit in your meeting may not happen that week, but it may happen six months or a year later.

When Angela Morris, a former human resources professional in banking, was looking to enter diversity recruiting, she contacted a former colleague who was working for her company’s rival, Bank of America, in Charlotte, North Carolina. The colleague passed Morris’ resumé to the hiring manager and, though he had nothing immediately, it was the beginning of a relationship that resulted in Morris being hired as the bank’s diversity recruiter. It didn’t happen right away, but Morris kept in touch through periodic phone calls and e-mails asking how things were going. She was offered a job three months later.

Morrison realized early on that it would take time to build and nurture his relationships, so he has always been methodical in his approach. When he first joined Prudential, he made a list of the few African American executives at the firm, introduced himself, and asked for mentors. “Once they said yes, I had free rein to try to engage them,” he says. Morrison cultivated his relationship with each executive through breakfasts and lunches, e-mails, and phone calls—all while continuing to widen his circle at corporate meetings and other events. He would prepare questions to ask the executives about the challenges of working at the company and how they had become successful. “I wanted them to give me specific advice around something,” he says. “They were all very open.”

Morrison later expanded his initial list by asking those executives to

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