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Career Networking Strategies

Career Networking Strategies

career-networking-strategiesWho, what, when, where and how of networking events
Yeah, yeah, yeah you’ve heard before – “Get out there and network!”   But seriously, how and where do you start to network?  Here’s a short guide to how I view networking.

  • Who – anyone
  • What – information exchange
  • When – before you need it
  • Where – here and now
  • How – get curious

Got it?   Yes, I know that’s ridiculously simple and not all that actionable.  However, the reality is that it’s not that complex.  We just get ourselves worked up thinking we’re going to be just like that awkward person at the “networking event” with the sweaty palms and the slightly crocked smile working the room.   Not that there’s anything wrong with crocked smiles.  Just saying the embarrassment factor stops a lot of us cold.

Take a deep breath.
Hang back a second realize the people at those events are not that different from you.  They want to meet people to get something.  So be different.  Be more interested that interesting.    Find out what they’re looking for and think of anyone you can connect them with to get there.    And by the way it’s not like you can build a relationship at one networking event.  This is about starting the conversation.

Redefine success.
Success could be that you got into your car to go.  Next time success could be that you did that and then got out of your car and went in, went to the bathroom and went home.  The next time you could define success as going, going in, talking to the person at the welcome desk, faking like you’re going in but walk through and go home.  It’s a progression.  Define success for you not for Dale Carnegie.   I usually set my goal at meeting one interesting person or just talking to someone other than the bartender.  Broaden your view on who you might like to add to your network.

Get curious
My challenge with networking events is that I meet a lot of the wrong people.    Not bad people just people who are not helpful to me.  Usually they are so focused on what they need they don’t really even know me before getting my card and moving on.  So I know that if I meet one person who is slightly interesting to me each time I go to a networking event I win.  I might meet a new friend.  That new friend might have an uncle or an old boss looking for someone just like me.  Maybe you’ll have a new partner to walk into those networking events next time.

Questions to ask:

  • How do you get through these networking events?
  • Who would you like to meet?
  • What other networking events do you attend?
  • Which ones are the most productive for you?
  • What tips do you have for me in this industry or economy or event or on this planet?
  • What tips have you gotten tonight from others?
  • Would you mind if I send a request to connect on Linked-in?   (if they are at all interesting)
  • Would you have time for a cup of coffee or to connect again?  (again if they are a potential friend or prospect of interest)

How do you translate this to a corporate networking approach?

  1. Define your story.  Could be as simple as I am trying to get to know the organization better from other perspectives to make more informed decisions in my positions.  (Who doesn’t want that?)
  2. Be clear about your ask, looking for a mentor, want to hear how your work impacts other departments, hear about task forces that you would like to be considered to join, etc.
  3. Define your target market.
  4. Who do you know in those markets?
  5. Who do you know that knows people in those markets?
  6. Attend all extracurricular events that you can and use the above approach.
  7. Reach out to the others via email and be transparent about what you’re doing and ask for a meeting with a specific amount of time.  Then show up to that meeting.  Be sure to stick to that time – saying “I want to be respectful of your time since I asked for 20 minutes.”

Above all, make it fun and be yourself.  You’re a hot commodity and it’s important to know who wants to offer more to the organization and has the spunk to go out there and get it!

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