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How to Network Like You Really Mean It

On my desk is a decorative box that’s full to the top with business cards. I’ve collected them at casual encounters, conferences, and speaking engagements over the past several months. I have a business card scanner, mobile business card application, and a human assistant, any of which could help me get those names into my contacts list. I haven’t bothered because, deep down, I know most or all will come to nothing.

So I was more than intrigued to discover that consultant and author Andrew Sobel recommends in his new book “Power Relationships”that the best place for all those cards might be the circular file. His thesis is simple: When it comes to networking, quality trumps quantity.

“There is a penchant to meet lots and lots of people,” he says. “It’s fueled a bit by social media, where we’re told we need large numbers of Twitter followers, followers of our blogs, LinkedIn connections and Facebook friends.” In fact, he says, there are only a few professions where knowing many, many people in a superficial way can be an advantage. “Maybe if you’re promoting a nightclub,” he says.

For just about everyone else, he says, it’s a different story. After interviewing hundreds of successful executives he found that most could identify 25 or perhaps 30 relationships that had made all the difference to their careers. And they recognized those key relationships right from the start.

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