When today’s employees retire, very few of them are still working for the company they started out with after high school or college. The golden watch marking 25 years of service with an employer has definitely become obsolete. What was once seen as a flaw – frequent job changes – is now a unique selling proposition.

Workers who embark on such a path without an extensive, well-maintained network will, however, quickly experience failure. In fact, detractors often assert that many top managers are better at networking than at their actual jobs. So how can you optimize your network while walking the fine line between “neglecting contacts” and “getting on people’s nerves”?

“Workshop participants often ask us this and similar questions,” says Dr. Monika V. Kronbügel.

See and Be Seen
Make sure that you are always present! Starting today, you must attend every company event and every work-related occasion. Introduce yourself to everyone who is there; make brief small talk with those you know; and then turn your attention to those you don’t yet know. Finished? Then, and only then, can you head for the buffet…

Make Harmless, Informal Conversation
Prepare in advance. Be sure to have a few topics to talk about – and not just business-related ones! “Why are you here?” “Isn’t the event/speaker interesting?” “What do you find inspiring?” “What are you reading right now?” Don’t be shy! The person you are talking to may also be on a similar mission and grateful to you for initiating the conversation…

Dress Appropriately
This is something that cannot be overemphasized. Dress appropriately for the event. Don’t overdress but also don’t be too casual.
A good tip in this regard is to wear a “statement piece”. In other words, one eye-catching item – maybe unusual sneakers; a bright neck tie; or something similar. This will provide others with a good opening for conversation.

Take & Exchange Business Cards
Want to make new contacts? Then be sure to take business cards with you, however don’t hand them out indiscriminately. Your cards should have a certain value. Don’t give them to everyone but do distribute them to as many people as possible…

Nurture Networks
“Gathering” is just the first step. A network is only truly a network when the “net” begins to “work”. Today platforms such as Xing make it easy to stay in touch – but you should go the extra mile. Personal messages; having dinner together; or giving a small gift on someone’s birthday instead of sending the website’s automatic message can work wonders.

Use the right means of communication to become a network expert