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As I mentioned in last week’s post, I always hated networking. I’m not kidding, going to the dentist to have a tooth drilled was less stressful for me. I wouldn’t call myself an introvert, but it was still hard for me. Why? Because no one ever taught me how to do it.

It is crazy to think that you would just know how to network. It is an art form, and like most art, it requires instruction and practice.

Networking: An art form that can be learned

I am sure you are thinking, “I know some people that are naturals at networking.”My question to you is, are they?  Or, are they just good at approaching people they don’t know and striking up a conversation?

Unless the other party walks away thinking, “Wow, I have to get to know that person better!”, or “Wow, I can’t believe they know someone who can help me with my most pressing problem,” they haven’t done anything but had a conversation.

You are probably also thinking, “Yeah, but I don’t even know how to have the conversation.”Here’s the secret. A conversation is a lot easier when you know in advance what you might say. And, a lot easier if you have a few practice conversations under your belt.

Networking involves strategy, and much of the work happens before the encounter. Even extroverts don’t naturally network well, and their version of networking often comes off as “schmoozing.”

How not to network

I got away with not knowing how to network most of my career.  I wandered around the event floor not approaching anyone unless it was someone I knew.  I ate a lot of hors-d’oeuvres as no one expects you to talk to them with your mouth full.  Sometimes, I got lucky and found someone I knew and attached myself to them for the evening like Velcro. Sound familiar?

Once I became a CEO of a non-profit and attended multiple networking events every month, this had to change. I had to figure out a way to deal with my fear of networking.

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Read Part I: Networking Strategies that Work

If you’re reading this, networking probably isn’t your strong suit either.  But, I overcame it by developing a strategy discussed in detail in Part I of this series.

Networking Strategies that Work: Part I

My strategy consists of the 3-P’s

  • Prepare: The research and planning you must do to be prepared to network
  • Practice: Techniques for networking with individuals and groups
  • Provide: The secret to networking, always giving more than you are taking

Part I will serve as the foundation for the rest of the networking topics I will cover in this blog.

Topics included in Part II

Networking is a topic too broad for a single blog.  To address it thoroughly I will need to write a book devoted to it. Until then, I will do my best to cover the high points in these two blogs.

In Part II, I cover:

  • The art of the business card exchange
  • The importance of follow up
  • How to network effectively on LinkedIn
  • How to network when you are looking for a job
  • Advanced techniques in networking when you are ready

The art of the business card exchange

The reason why you want their card

Your goal is to find something you can do for the person you with whom you are networking.  And, you will need your card to send to them after the networking event. Here are some ideas of things you could provide:

  • Forward an article you mentioned in the conversation
  • Send them a name of a colleague that would be perfect for a project
  • Provide the name of someone qualified to provide specific advice
  • Give them the name of a great mechanic, real estate agent, dentist, etc.

The business card represents a way to get this information to them.  There is a subtlety here, but it is critical to your thinking and should reduce your networking stress.  That is, your goal shouldn’t be to get their business card so you can add it to your growing pile. It should be to provide them with something useful.

When you think of it this way, asking for their card represents the favor you are doing for them, not yourself.  Why wouldn’t they want to give it to you?  They see it as an even exchange.

When and how to exchange cards

Traditionally, cards are exchanged at the end of the conversation.  But if you are following my advice above, and I hope you are, you are going to ask for it as soon as you have made an offer to provide something useful and they have accepted.   The conversation might go like this;

“John, I do think you would like my dentist.”

“Your right, given how you describe her, I think I might.”

“Great then, if you have a card, I will send you her contact information.”

“Sure, here it is.” (They give you their card)

“Perfect, I will send that information to you when I get back home.” (You give them your card)

See how easy and natural that is?

Business Card Secret: As soon as your conversation has ended, walk away and find a place to jot down some information on the back of their card while it is still fresh in your mind.  Don’t wait! Make a note of what you promised and anything else unique that came up in the conversation.  Why? Because you are going to mention this in your follow-up email.

If they gave you one of those cards where something is written on the back, or if they are impossible to write on because they are glossy, then pull out one of yours, put their name on it, and then write these things on the back.

Keep these two cards together and put them in a safe place apart from your other cards.  Trust me, you don’t want to accidentally give away someone else’s card mistakingly. I have done it and it is embarrassing and nearly unrecoverable.

The importance of follow up

I think it goes without saying that you are going to do what you said when you said you’d do it.  If you don’t, you have lost all credibility, and this has been a wasted effort.

When you get home, craft a short email thanking them for the pleasant conversation and providing the information.  Also, mention that if you run across any other information (related to your discussion), you won’t hesitate to send it to them.  Let them know if there is anything they ever need, not to hesitate to reach out to you.  Last, close by telling them you hope to see them again soon.

How to network effectively on LinkedIn

Networking on LinkedIn is similar.  Most importantly, the third “P” -Providing, or giving more than you take still applies.  If you are like me, you are going to get a lot of invitations or responses to connection requests that are nothing more than solicitations.  Here is an example of one I just received.

Sleazy cold call solicitations like this one are something to which I will never respond:

Hi Bob,

[Our company] improves the culture of organizations looking to improve employee productivity and engagement by providing coherence-based mindfulness programs that foster well-being and higher levels of positivity and growth. Our community of 200,000 members reports successes such as 40% annual revenue growth… We would welcome a short call with you. Have an amazing day,

Roxana

You might try something a lot more personal like this.

Hi Bob,

Thanks so much for connecting with me, it means a lot.  I see that we are both in the e-learning. Just wondering if you saw this recent white paper;  This Is How Artificial Intelligence Will Shape eLearning For Good. It is put out by eLearning Industry I find their articles very useful and this one was no exception.

Have a great day and let me know if there is anything you ever need.  BTW, I attend a lot of the e-Learning conferences, if you are going to any soon, would love to meet you.

Roxana

In my free download; Get Noticed: 8 Great LinkedIn Hacks I discuss how to meet others in your industry by joining groups. You can download it free here:

Get Noticed: 8 Great LinkedIn Hacks

How to network when you are looking for a job

This is a tough one. As mentioned earlier, when you are networking you are looking to provide, not take.  Asking for a job while networking is usually horrible form as it gets the relationship off to a bad start.

If you must network to find job opportunities, then your strategy can’t be to “Provide,” as you offer will be seen as a quid pro quo request for a job.  That will not usually go over well as they will see it for what it is, a cheesy way to try and get a job.

Only you can tell during a conversation with someone if bringing up up the topic of your current job situation will be well received.  I suppose if they happen to say, “I need to hire someone that can do X.” it might be OK to say, “That’s interesting, you know, I might be interested.”  But, the likelihood of this coming up is pretty rare.

My recommendation would be to engage in a conversation designed to find something in common, as mentioned in Part I, just table stakes.  Then, steer the conversation to your current job, what you are doing, and what you can’t do that frustrates you.  Describe your ideal job.  See if they bite.  If not, you might jokingly say, you don’t happen to know of anyone looking for someone like me, do you?

The bottom line is, there is no right way to do this, but you might get lucky.  Just be extremely polite and don’t ever be pushy.

When I was in my MBA program many years ago, I had a marketing professor who said that “If you ever have to write a resume, you have failed.”  He didn’t mean this literally, but his point was that if you are always networking and helping others all the time, then when you need a job, your network will take care of you. If you master networking, you will rarely be out of work looking for a job.

Advanced techniques in networking when you are ready

Those who are masters of networking, create a universe that revolves around them.  This means that they host the parties and invite the players. Although it may start out small, with time, you can grow the attendee list to one that influencers will beg to get on.  This is a long-term strategy, but it can work.

If you think this sounds crazy, it might.  But Joe Polish made a business of networking and creating connections.

If you don’t believe me, check out The Genius Network.  Joe’s passion was connecting people and turned it into a business. From his website,

“Genius Network® is an exclusive group that connects high-achieving entrepreneurs, industry innovators, and best-selling authors and helps them grow their business ten-fold.”

With the ability to form groups on LinkedIn and Facebook, create events on sites like Meetup, you can begin to develop networks where you are the catalyst.  There is no better way to network than to have your network come to you.  Think about it.  This might be something you want to grow into, or you might just want to go to Meetup, start a group in your area, and plan its first meeting.

In Summary

I hope you feel more confident about networking now that you have a strategy.  Just remember the 3-P’s from Part I:

  • Prepare: The research and planning you must do to be prepared to network
  • Practice: Techniques for networking with individuals and groups
  • Provide: The secret to networking, always giving more than you are taking

Take care till next week,

Bob

www.fixmycareernow.com
bob@robertbaird.us

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