3 ways successful people network

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As professionals advance in their careers, networking becomes increasingly important and simultaneously, increasingly difficult. The successful people most sought after for networking opportunities are often also extremely busy, receiving dozens of invitations per week and hundreds of emails each day.

How do you get their attention and achieve opportunities to build meaningful professional relationships with others? In a recent article published inthe Harvard Business Review, Dorie Clark, a marketing strategy consultant, speaker and professor at Durham, N.C.-based DukeUniversity's Fuqua School of Business, outlines three secrets successful people use to network.

1. Figure out what sets you apart. Finding something you have in common with another person is one of the fastest ways to form a connection. But to really capture their interest, you need to show them something exotic, according to Ms. Clark.

"The more interesting you seem, the more that powerful people will want to seek you out," she wrote. "And yet it can be hard for us to identify what's most interesting about ourselves; over time, even the coolest things can come to seem banal." 

Ms. Clark suggests asking your friends to pick out the most fascinating aspects of your life story, including interests and experiences, to help you create a list of possible conversation starters.

2. Cultivate expertise. "Almost nothing elicits more interest than genuine expertise," wrote Ms. Clark. "If someone is drawn to a topic that you're knowledgeable about, you'll move to the top of their list."

Becoming an expert in something applicable to your field is certainly useful, but in terms of networking, sometimes it is even better when your expertise resides outside the borders of your profession. According to Ms. Clark, a financial journalist she profiled in her book Reinventing You began building more meaningful relationships with his sources after he started writing about food and wine. His Wall Street contacts began reaching out to him to get insights on exciting new restaurants or the best places to entertain clients.

3. Put yourself at the center of your network. It's not easy to build a powerful network if you aren't already powerful, Ms. Clark wrote. But it's possible. She references Jon Levy, a New York City resident and networking entrepreneur, who decided "the best way to get invited to the party is to host the party." Six years ago, he began hosting twice-monthly "influencer" dinners. He began by inviting the most interesting professionals he knew, then asking them to invite the most interesting people they knew. Now, Mr. Levy's gatherings attract Nobel laureates, Olympic athletes, scientists and music artists, among others.

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