Posts Tagged ‘job search’

Networking 102

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

So you’ve decided to attend your first networking meeting…..

Here’s a simple handy-dandy list of suggestions that should make the event go smoother.

BRING:

Business Cards–The goal of this is connecting with people, right? Well, you can scramble around for a pen and spare scraps of paper each and every time you meet someone, or you can have a stack of business cards you can hand out. It doesn’t have to be terrible fancy or have a sophisticated design. Just something with the essential information on it: your name, your phone number, email address, and the URL to your LinkedIn profile will do very nicely. It would also help if there were a line or two about your job title or what makes you special, but if you can’t manage that, leave some space on the card so that your new contacts can write that information in themselves.

A clean, professional appearance–This probably doesn’t need to be said, but that could go for everything in this post. While it’s unlikely that you’ll be meeting someone who’ll be directly hiring you, it is still important to make a great first impression. So don’t treat the event as if it’s casual hour. But at the same time, you don’t need to be on formal evening wear. You’ll be probably be just fine with casual business wear.

A friendly ear and desire to communicate–You will be talking to quite a few people. Not all of them will be able to help you, I’m sorry to say. The only way to determine this is by talking with each other for a little while. Be courteous and patient; this isn’t speed dating. Even if there is very little common ground between the two of you but the other party seems friendly and helpful, that doesn’t mean things couldn’t change in the future. Once you get back home, look that person up on LinkedIn and ask them to join your network to make keeping in contact easier.

DO NOT BRING:

Inflated Expectations–You are looking for connections, nothing more. No one will be offering you a job at a networking event. At best, someone will make arrangements to meet with you for an interview at a later time. So don’t get your hopes up falsely. What you should keep in mind is the main theme in my Networking 101 blog post: everyone at a mixer is there to answer a single question, “What or who do I know that can help this other person?”. That goes for you, too. Try to find out the other person’s needs and do your best to come up with a resource or person that would solve that need. If not, keep that problem in the back of your mind and as you network more, see if a new contact can solve some of your older contacts’ problems. (We’re probably getting into Networking 201 here….)

Slime–That’s right. Slime. And it isn’t a Ghostbusters reference, either. If you’re at a networking mixer trying to get a new job or meet new contacts, you don’t want to come across as a fountain of negativity. Even if your current job sucks (hey, frankly, it happens) you don’t even hint at this when you’re talking to other people. Your boss is a jerk? Incompetent management driving the business into the ground? Keep all of that to yourself. Put the most positive spin possible on your job search. Because it reflects on you as much as if you had shown up to the mixer in torn and muddy clothes. No one in a successful position is going to help someone spewing slime at their first meeting, no matter how friendly they seem. Your acquaintance won’t go any further than the mixer. Say as little as possible about anything bad going on with your career and put the best spin on things that you can.

Networking 101

Friday, July 9th, 2010

Many already know this, but I’m writing this on behalf of a couple of people I know who are new to the very basics of networking.

The most important thing you can know about networking is that it does NOT work this way:

Networker #1: Well, hello! My name is Art. What’s yours?

Networker #2: Janice. Nice to meet you!

Networker #1: Nice to meet you, as well. Say, can you get me a job, Janice?

Networker #2: Why yes, I can, Art! Even though I know nothing about you or what you do, can you start Monday?

The idea behind networking is not “Me, me, me, me”. Successful networking instead is centered around the mindset of “What or who do I know that can help this other person?”

If you keep that concept in mind, you’ll do very well.

Of course, the idea here is that if a bunch of people in the room are all there to help each other out, everyone wins. So even if no one is in an immediate position to help you out, the idea is that you stick in their mind and in the future, they are looking out for opportunities for you–trying to use their contacts to help other people. And you are doing the same for them.

Why bother going through all of this?

Greg Johnson, executive and career coach, states that only 3% of jobs filled come from postings on jobs boards like Monster and CareerBuilder. I had a hard time believing that number, but he’s got the data.

So that means that it is crucial that EVERY job seeker is out there meeting new people and marketing themselves and their skills. No small task.

The bad news here is that as beneficial as networking is to you, it takes time to work. You are cultivating relationships here–quality relationships. Building friendships and establishing trust. This simply does not happen overnight, just as Art & Janice’s conversation above doesn’t happen in real life.

Who should you ask to join your LinkedIn network? According to Brenda Whitesides, a trainer on LinkedIn as well as a consultant and recruiter, it should be people with whom you feel comfortable enough to pick up the phone and talk to on a moment’s notice. Getting connections is only the first step. Kelly Blokdijk, a talent coach and HR professional, describes LinkedIn as a “rolodex”–simply a tool to keep track of people. What you do with those connections beyond LinkedIn is what’s important.

I was asked the question, “Who is better as a LinkedIn connection: someone in your industry, or someone as far away from it, like a construction worker?”

The answer is neither. The people you want for LinkedIn connections are “people persons” who go out of their way to help you NO MATTER WHAT INDUSTRY THEY ARE IN. What they happen to do for a living is slightly irrelevant. What’s more important is WHO THEY KNOW. A construction worker could have contacts with lawyers, graphic designers, marketing executives and CEOs. Who you want for your LinkedIn connections are great networkers.

And think about that….wouldn’t someone completely removed from your industry be in a better position to help you than the same old people you see every day, every week, or every month? What are the chances of a complete (yet connected) stranger being the answer to your problems than someone who you see every day and whose contacts are most likely the same as yours?

Another point I’ll add here is a LinkedIn “don’t”. I was contacted through LinkedIn to join the network of a former coworker I hadn’t heard from in about 10 years. I was happy to hear from this person and I accepted the invitiation. Many months went by and one day, I was at a networking event and heard that someone needed a contact on the IT department at Toyota. A bell went off in my head as I remembered that that was exactly where this former coworker worked! I told this new contact that I knew someone at Toyota and would arrange for an introduction. Well, I dropped my contact a brief note to ask about talking with someone who needed a connection.

Weeks later, I am still waiting for his reply.

This is about as opposite the point of LinkedIn as you can get. It reminds me of the comic strip Mr.  Boffo which regularly features “People Unclear On The Concept”. Signing up on LinkedIn and never talking to any of your contacts there is the very definition of being unclear on the concept.

If you can’t keep in touch with people, be willing to help them, drop a brief note saying hello occassionally, or want to know more about new things and new people, I would advise you to stay off of LinkedIn. You’re not helping yourself or anybody else. What good is it to have 75 or 100 LinkedIn connections if none of those people can help you meet the right people? Don’t bother establishing a profile there. Instead, invest all your time and money in lottery numbers.

I’ll make one last point here. Networking is fairly new to me as well. I’m still learning a great deal about it. But I can confidently say that I’m in the full swing of it and am looking to do more and more. If you’re new to networking, I would strongly advise you to get out and start as soon as you can. (I should point out that every opportunity is a networking opportunity. You shouldn’t have a conversation with the grocery clerk, gas station attendant, next-door neighbor, waiter or dry cleaner without networking.) You might not know it, but there are networking events on just about every day of the week. Just Google them if you don’t believe me. There are all kinds of free events, you could join a group and go to their events, or just go as a non-member for a slightly higher entry fee. But get in there and do it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Please feel free to leave comments on this post and let me know if I need to explain any of this further. I’ll respond in the comments or just create a whole new post about it.