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Advice / Job Search / Networking

The 80-20 Rule Will Make You a Much Better Networker

By now you’ve probably heard the cardinal rule of networking a million times: If you want to make a killer impression, you need to know exactly what to say when you meet someone new. And we’ll bet that’s why you’ve spent hours brushing up on answers to common yet surprisingly tough questions like, “Tell me about yourself!”

An equally important networking commandment you may not have considered? Letting your perfectly crafted elevator pitch devolve into a 10-minute monologue is a big turnoff.

“Good networking is all about building good relationships,” business coach Alisoun Mackenzie explains. “Selling at people just turns them away.”

If that news has you scrambling to revamp your networking strategy stat, slow down for a sec—because Mackenzie’s favorite hack, the 80-20 Rule, is here to help.

In a nutshell: At any given networking event, spend 80% of your conversations focusing on whomever you’re talking to—and only 20% on self-promotion.

More than ever, networking is a vital part of the employment search process—70% of jobs are now found through networking and many are filled by word of mouth.

The only problem?

Nerves, self-interest, and the natural human tendency to talk about yourself often get in the way of building those mutually beneficial relationships needed for professional success—unless you’re keeping the 80-20 Rule in mind to combat these sneaky stumbling blocks.

How to Do It

Visualize what the 80-20 split might look like at your next networking event. If you spend five minutes talking to someone, you’ll want to limit talking about yourself to one minute—and cede the floor to your new connection for the rest of the time.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should spend those four minutes in silence. Before the event, research the latest trends in your industry, companies you might want to work for, and the individuals you hope to meet. Armed with this information, you can start to formulate useful, informed questions that will fill up the lion’s share of your conversations.

They could be as simple as, “What is your typical day like?” or “What do you most like about your job?” Although the best ones will be related to your own professional goals, such as, “Are there any professional associations you enjoy and would recommend?”

You can also use this time to offer a helpful suggestion, strategic introduction, or possible solution to a tricky work problem your new acquaintance may have just described—so you can both help each other achieve big professional goals.

Sounds like the start of a beautiful friendship to us.

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Photo of pie chart courtesy of Shutterstock.