- Posted by admin
- On July 11, 2017
The first thing people say when you go to college or grad school is that you need to do networking. The idea is that when you know people in the industry, your chance of landing a job or getting called in for consulting work increases exponentially. Even after school, you get invited to join numerous professional clubs to amp up your chance of getting ahead in your trade. But I want to argue that, if not planned wisely, all the time that you put into making rounds in these gatherings could actually be counterproductive and impede your success.
Let’s say you have an MBA in Finance and you are a member of this Financial Professionals Association. You go to this one event and meet tens of people around you, forming small circles, where one person speaks of his “incredible” experience in Moscow, another one of her “challenging” days in Japan. Later on, someone moves his ice-filled tumbler up, lifts his index finger off the rim, and points it in your direction: “What line of work are you in?” Half a dozen people to the left and right of you, some with eagerness, some with boredom in their faces, some, though, with a great smile await an answer! At that moment you are supposed to tell your fellow pros what kind of master you are and what “incredible” jobs you have accomplished during your years in several countries and what kind of portfolio you have managed with a “talented staff” (you have to give others some credit), and that sometimes it was really “tough” (not to sound too cocky). And then what?
Or, you are thinking, you do not want to miss this opportunity. You feel that you could still grow in your line of work and want to convey that you are in the market for new offers, but you are not the outgoing type of person to be very direct about it. On top of it, you are not a small talk person and don’t necessarily tell all the jokes that people want to hear. You could say many things, but somehow feel left out of the conversation. I, for example, don’t like to talk much among people I just met while standing. I either just hang out with a small group of friends or I mingle with the crowd after I give a presentation. This way there is a purpose to it. In most other cases, I am very comfortable sitting in the back and enjoying the scenery.
As you can see, this situation eliminates the first approach as a viable way to grow your prospects: By enthusiastically talking about yourself to make others remember you when the time comes. These settings may be great for individuals with people skills, but not for someone who does a great job when it counts, but does not want to brag about it. In fact, the more knowledgeable you become, the more prominent you are in your field, and the higher up you are in your company, the less likely you are to talk about it much (unless you carry a certain level of arrogance). You are thinking, “What am I going to say? I can’t just splurge out my resume!”
Now we move to the second, and more important point. Most people in these career specific clubs either have similar job titles and positions, or are at a comparable career level as yours. Hence, they are probably looking for the same type of business opportunities that you are – which is natural, because your skills and experiences overlap. This inevitably results in uninvited rivalry. Most people around you see you as a way to measure their success, or worse, a direct challenge to their status. Do you think they would really want to help you get a position at their firm if they were a candidate for it themselves? Would they actually like to see you as, possibly, their boss? Would they offer their true help for you to climb that ladder before them? Sure, it is possible, but this kind of help would only come from self-confident professionals with a strong ethical character – and there are not many out there!
So, before you set out to be the networker-in-chief and appear at every event with a stack of business cards and interesting stories to tell, know that you should attend profession-specific gatherings and parties with friends from school for only two reasons:
- To rekindle old memories with colleagues and schoolmates, and overall, to have a good time with like-minded individuals.
- To listen to or meet speakers who will offer unique perspectives and broaden your knowledge of the subject matter.
After you have examined the above facts and reconfigured your networking methodology, here are some tips for effective and efficient networking:
- Attend more networking events outside of your natural professional circle. If you are, for example, a financial expert at a meeting of architects, your skills may complement theirs. This means that you will be able to meet like-minded individuals without the rivalry of peers, thus opening doors to opportunities with various organizations that seek outside help when handling projects that require know-how at different stages of a venture. The likelihood of being invited for your expertise, therefore, becomes greater.
- Although a networking lunch is a business event, try to keep business out of it. Enjoy your time as you would at a random social gathering. Do not push yourself into situations where you appear like a salesman. Unless you are specifically asked for it, don’t swing open your wallet and slide out your newly minted business card as soon as introductions are made. That should come at the end, and only if both parties seem eager to share more info.
- If you already know some people at the event and want to introduce a friend to this new circle, do so with style. Instead of saying, “Guys, this is Joe – Joe, this is Melanie and Steve” elaborate a little. “Guys this is my financial expert friend from XYZ Company. He is mainly deals with mergers & acquisitions, and plays great tennis (or jazz guitar) and vice versa.” Note that the last piece of info makes your friend more approachable and is an automatic ice breaker. Always include this final touch where you mention a common interest. This kind of introduction also increases your own status in everyone’s eyes, as you show that you value your friends and appreciate their success.
In conclusion, remember that to be a winner, you need to make others win with you. When you get introduced or recommended, make sure the endorsing person receives the same reverence from you. It does not have to be a share of your profits, but rather you could show your appreciation with a referral for projects that would be in his or her realm or an invitation to an event (public, professional, or private) that pertains to his or her particular interest. This would ensure a positive cycle.
The right connections can get you to higher levels at a much faster rate. Some even say that knowing the right people is more important than your degree. Networking should, therefore, be an area of expertise itself, as it affects all aspects of your life. I hope this short guide will be useful the next time you charge into crowds. Let me know how what you do and how it goes!