What is Networking?

When most people hear networking they either think about the IT side of it or worse, they imagine some sneaky sales man passing on business cards en masse to sell them everything they never needed.

Networking as a term has somewhat a bad reputation as most of the people I came across do it wrong. It is not their fault, they just do not know better. This is why you are here, to learn exactly how to network without having that picture of the sneaky salesman in mind or having the fear of becoming such. I want you to differentiate what we do here and what networking means for the masses.

 

Networking is an art. It requires a mix of generosity, creativity, selflessness, meaning, context and persistence. Networking as I see it means providing enough people with high value without wanting something back. Not asking for things, but giving, in form of valuable information in the context, little meaningful gifts and generosity is the key to successful relationship building. The most successful people I know acquired their wealth by giving and providing massive value without being greedy.

 

Networking for Management positions

In times when the economy is in a downturn (which seems to have become a standard) it is especially important for managers to network, who want to find a new job. When jobs diminish, there is an exponential decrease in management roles compared to worker roles because of the pyramid hierarchy. Think about it. If the marketplace existed of 100 companies and 10 CFOs were fired, where would they go?

No companies that I know need 2 CFOs… But if you are a worker at the bottom of the pyramid, there is always need for more than one of you. This might be an extreme example, but I have seen it over and over again in the last few years.

 

In poor economic times I was overrun by Managers who were willing to cut their pay and work in a lower hierarchic position and still they could not find a job, because the corporations could literarily pick from 20 CFOs.

The higher you are in the pyramid the more you must network your way to your next job. This is one of the reasons, apart from generating business, why C-level executives play golf on Friday afternoon and go to cocktail parties.

 

 

Step 1 – Search your current network first

You should make sure you leverage your close network of people that you already have before reaching out to new heights as these people know and trust you already. These can be former colleagues, relatives, friends or your postman. You can do this casually by telling them that you are looking for a new challenge and if they might know anyone that could help you, when you meet or talk to them the next time.

You could also email them and tell them the same. However if you do this, make sure you always ask if they might know somebody. For example, your aunt working as a nurse in the hospital might not hire you, but what if the brother of her best friend is the CEO of IBM?

 

Your network does not only consist of the 120 contacts you have but also of their contacts. If your contacts know 120 people as well, you have a 2nd tier network of 14.400 people. How big do you think is the chance that anyone of these people might be a potential employer? And this is the network we want to tap into and it is much more accessible these days because of Social Media than ever before.

 

Step 2 – Build new relationships

Now that you talked to your existing connections it is time to develop your network. This can be done through several methods, such as live events, face to face meetings, online social networking or chatting up strangers at the airport. The last option seems silly at first, but when you think about how much executives travel around the globe, it might make sense.

 

What events should you attend?

There is no set rule on which events to attend, but I try to give you some guidelines to make the most out of your time.

There are 4 types of events to attend.

 

1. Industry and expertise events

These can be conventions or events related to your industry. Anything that discusses the topic of the industry you are in. It is also possible that your industry is different from your expertise if, for example, you want to change career or simply change the industry.

 

2. Recruitment events

Recruitment events can be of high value to you, especially if you have something to offer in this industry, for example, if you are in HR or Recruitment yourself. It is the perfect spot to meet peers and potential employers.

 

3. Sports events

Sports events can be a small local event like a kid’s football match, a mountain bike tour, a golf tournament with drinks in the club house, a tennis game or tournament or anything that you participate or practice yourself. Many executives are active sports people and like to attend these events. Also you will find events to participate on meetup.com but this shall be discussed later.

 

4. General networking events

If you are comfortable to attend such events with the sake of networking, please do so. But be aware of the warning as stated in the next paragraph.

 

WARNING – What kind of events should you NOT attend?

In the following I will explain certain events should be avoided. There are many people I know that attend networking events only for the sake of networking. Even though this might not only be negative, people which attend these events tend to be unemployed and are looking for work.

Now, if you are unemployed yourself, you might have found yourself in this situation before. You are attending a networking event to “speed networking” with 15 other unemployed people in the room. Do you benefit from networking with other people that are unemployed? The answer is no, since, at the moment, your key goal is to find a job as it is theirs.

Also networking as a term does not excite a lot of people and does not necessarily create a chatty atmosphere by itself. However, if you attend an industry, expertise or sports event that you are excited about, you automatically are in a better mood and have a subject to talk about.

 

Where to find events?

I will present 4 different places to find live events to meet new relevant people. There might be many more sources, but these are the ones I have the most experience and success with.

 

1. LinkedIn Events

On http://events.linkedin.com/ you can find events from all kinds of industries and expertises as well as locations.

 

2. Meetup.com

Meetup.com is the world’s largest network of local groups and over 9.000 events take place every single day. It has over 11 Million users in over 45.000 cities. On meetup.com you can find events all over the world, private and professional. This is my favourite place to look for live events.

 

3. Glocals.com

If you live in Switzerland this platform might be a great choice for you. Over 72.000 expats and locals meet up here and form communities.

 

4. Google

Of course, Google has to be mentioned. As you might know, you find almost anything on Google, this is also the case for meet-ups and events. Just type in {Your industry or expertise} event {your location} and you will be surprised what events you can find with a little research. Make sure you save the websites in your favourites to return later.

 

Prepare for the event

It is crucial to prepare yourself before any event you attend, so you benefit the most of it.

If there is a guest list available, read through it and check the people on LinkedIn to find out what they are up to. Mark the people you want to meet and put together a cheat sheet about them. Write down hobbies, past work history, anything that could be helpful to know, when you talk to them. If there is no guest list available publicly, kindly ask the host of the event if it was possible to send it to you.

There is another reason you should connect with the host of the event before it is happening. Ask him or her if you might be of any help in organising, preparing or helping out at the event itself. If you have the chance to get close to the host before the event is taking place, you become an insider.

There are a few immense benefits to this:

 

  • You already know at least somebody at the event and maybe a very important person at the same time
  • You become acquainted with the rest of the crew
  • If you belong to the core team which hosts the event you are a VIP automatically and earn the respect of the other attendees
  • People will want to connect with you if you have an important role in the hosts team

 

This part can be of huge value and a great short cut to connect with the right people.

 

 

Attending the event

There are some things you need to think about when attending the event. Dress code is an important topic and should not be neglected.

Depending on what type of event or what people will attend, the dress code can differentiate much. If you are attending a Banking Conference, make sure you wear suit and tie. On the other hand if you attend a Software Developers Conference, a long sleeve shirt and nice jeans will do. You also do not want to be completely overdressed and look like wanting to sell something.

 

 

Who to talk to?

If you are prepared well, then you should have a list or some cheat sheets of people you want to meet. Look out for them, but do not solely focus on them. Basically talk to anybody that you come across and always remember that you are here to make connections and not to sell anything.

You will know within the first 2 minutes, if this is somebody you want to talk to or not. You might not match with some people in conversations which is absolutely no problem. Excuse yourself and move on.

 

What to talk about?

Many people have problems starting out with a discussion. There are basically two ways to start, with a question or with a statement. The latter feels normally more casual so start out with something like “I really liked the last speaker” or “What a great welcome they put together”. Acknowledge anything that is exceptionally good. And always remember, you are in a safe environment. People are here to build their networks.

Whenever you meet somebody and find common interests, hand over your business card and tell them to stay in touch. After the event you will put their contact information in your system.

 

When you talk to people, it is crucial that you mention your intentions and goals. If you let others know where you want to go, they will have a reason to call or email you when they hear about an opportunity. If you do not tell them what you are up to, nobody will remember you when they stumble upon something that might be of value to you.

 

 

Follow up

Maintaining the relationships is where most of the people fail. Only a very small percentage of the people that meet, follow up with each other. This is either because they think it is too much work or they simply do not know how to do it. I want to break this section into 3 very easy points to make it as simple as possible.

 

1. Set up

Once you have somebody’s contact information and you had contact, it is time to follow up. Put their information into a system. I use Omnifocus for Mac, if you are a PC user, Outlook is great too. All you have to do is to insert the contact details, set a date for the next contact and activate the repeat function. I tend to follow up with everybody in my network at least every quarter of the year. In case of closer people every 1-2 months.

 

When the reminder pops up, you call them or send a short email. The goal here is to tell them that you are still alive and give a quick update on what is happening. I would not ask any questions in an email, if you had no contact for the last weeks or months. I tend to not ask generic questions like “How are you?” because, honestly, nobody even reads or answers them anymore.

The issue with question is that you create an obligation for the other party to answer. If you just write “Hope you are doing fine and your vacation went well” the other person does feel less obliged to answer it.

 

When it comes to birthdays and I know the person more or less well, I call them. Nobody calls anymore on birthdays today and the surprise if you call them and just with a happy birthday is always great, even if you only speak on the voicemail.

 

2. Give, give, give

If you want to build real relationships with future benefits for you, you must give first! It is essential that you ask yourself constantly how you can help anyone from your network. This does not just mean that you only use your time to do this. One of the biggest values you can provide for your network is your network itself. Try to connect the people within your circle of influence and invite those who do not know each other to events.

Great ways to stay in touch are, for example, sharing things with others that could be of value. This is only one example, many more things can be done. If you like to keep in touch on Social Networks like LinkedIn or Facebook, you can interact very easily with people by sharing great content (Articles, Press releases, etc.) as a status update or simply comment and like other’s messages.

Please do not write silly statements or tell everyone that you are just drinking a coffee or are bored, it hurts more than it helps. The “offline” version is phone calls, emails and face to face meetings.

 

 


 

Action steps week 4

  1. Go to Meetup.com, Google and LinkedIn and sign up for at least 4 events which are happening over the course of the next 4 weeks
  2. Get in contact with your existing network and start telling them about what your intentions are and that you are looking for your next challenge. You do not have to send out a mass mail to everyone. Actually I encourage you not to do so. Tell them what you are up to when you meet them, call, mail or text them.
  3. Set up a contact management system. Keep it simple and use Outlook or Omnifocus if you do not know which to use. Input your contacts into the system and schedule the recurring follow up events.