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In my MBA Summer Blues article, I give some tips on working your new — and old — network. Those tips apply not just to newly minted MBAs, but to all those looking to reinvent themselves.

Kevin Laws, contributor to VentrueBlog, offers some terrific practical networking tips, which help to expand my point. He says networking is about serendipity: making your luck. It's more about finding the person who already needs your skills, or your company, or your money. It's about making your interests and needs widely known and listening to the interests and needs of others. It's about being in the right place at the right time.

Here are Laws' tips:

  • Just do it. At events, find somebody who looks a little uncomfortable and talk to them. "What brings you here?" is often a good icebreaker. Dont waste the opportunity by seeking out the people you already know well or spending your time at the drink counter.
  • Card anyone over 21. Carry your business card with you wherever you go. If you are a student or "between positions," carry a card that has your contact info or your school's info on it.
  • Be brief. You should be able to introduce yourself and what your company does in a memorable, concise way.
  • Be specific. Saying "Well, I've done a variety of things and am pretty flexible." is not going to help you.
  • Don't ask for anything but advice. When you ask somebody to help you find funding or find a job, it's very blunt and implies a lot of invested time. Try a much softer method, "I'm looking to move from engineering into product management and would love to get your opinion sometime on how I should approach that."
  • Follow upselectively. Send a "nice to meet you" email and suggest meeting for coffee. But don't get overly hung up on any particular contact. Networking is about serendipity, not persistence.

Are you between projects? How do you network? Any tips on networking or reinventing yourself?

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