Networking

But if career paths are really learning paths rather than earning paths, then my career is about learning to make connections.  — Penelope Trunk, Business Blogger.

The Charity Balance

October 4,  2012

I am often asked for recommendations on how to balance professional and charity work.  I usually advise people that unless they have very few commitments and an abundance of resources, it’s best to practice strategic volunteering.  This typically means choosing organizations/causes which strategically align with your own personal or professional goals. Studies have shown that when the things we do connect with who we are, we become personally invested.

Regardless of which approach you take, try your best to choose a cause or interest you are passionate about. Afterall, it will require enthusiasm to meet the obligations related to fundraising and event appearances after you have finished a long day at work.  And if you are looking for work, the connections you make while volunteering could be a great boost to your job search efforts.

Read the post.

Be More Memorable at Networking Events

by Sherry Clayton, October 28, 2011

Over the past several months, I’ve made a concerted effort to step up my professional networking efforts.  Including my charity activities, I’m attending at least 10 meetings or networking events a month.  So, I’ve proved I have the staying power but now I need to be more strategic about my networking to ensure I’m getting the desired outcomes:   1) Meeting people of various professional and cultural backgrounds, 2) Expanding my network of influential resources who can advise me in my own career development and connect on common interests, and  3) Learning something new.

Many people become frustrated with networking.  Successful networking requires a commitment of time and resources.  Particularly, if you are purchasing tickets to events.   After the first 5 events, the excitement can quickly dissipate when it doesn’t seem like you are making any true connections.

“Networking is not about what you want but about making a human connection.” ~Wendy Vigroux, a financial advisor with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney

The key is to establish the connection and keep the line of communication open. But first you must be memorable.  Ask yourself what will inspire a new contact to pick your card out of the many they received at the event? If you are not memorable, the business card you so excitedly gave may end up in a forgotten pile, or worse, in the trash.  I’ve observed those who I consider master networkers.  They share some common behavior when it comes to networking:

1) Dress to be seen.  Suits are not always required.  But is important to be well represented by your attire.  Wearing something that you are comfortable in and wouldn’t mind being photographed.  It is generally assumed that your attire is an expression of who you are:  status, experience, creativity, etc.   So, as you plan your attire for an event, consider the event location, purpose/tone and fellow guests.  It’s commonly said that first impressions and communications is 70% visual. What do you want your attire to say about you?

2) Wear a signature piece.  One woman I know consistently wears a piece of  audacious statement jewelry to social events.  If trying to recall her name after the event, it’s commong to hear someone say, “the lady in the big red necklace”.  I’ve seen men in unusual suits or accessories (subtle plaid, pink tie, etc.). But you have to be careful not the take the uniqueness too far.  One young man actually worked the room wearing a fur hat the entire time.  I’m sure he thought the fur hat made him memorable, and it did, but not in a good way.  Remember, you are selling your image and what you have to offer.  Don’t sell yourself short or silly.

3) Be energetic.   Everyone has bad days. So keep in mind that you may not want to attend events on those days.  You may be feeling ill, in a bad mood or generally not your usual self.  Attending an event when not at your best may cause you to make negative or ineffective initial contacts.  Don’t be remembered as the person with low energy or a bad attitude.  There will always be future networking opportunities.  Choose the right time for you.

4) Follow-up immediately.  I often recruit volunteers on behalf of charity organizations.  Depending on the level of interest I detect during my 1-minute sell, I may send a follow-up email to the potential contact during the event, or the next day at the very latest.  The impact of this can be very powerful.  After attending a luncheon for a well known national non-profit, I received a phone call from the CEO before the end of the day.  It was confusing and surprising but it made a big difference.  I am now one of that organization’s most enthusiastic supporters.

All in all, networking has proved to be invaluable to me.  I’ve joined the Board of two non-profit organizations within the last year and am gaining ever increasing clarity on my own goals and value to individuals and organizations.

I found the following networking article on-line last year and continue to revisit it for tips.

“Six ways to be more memorable at networking events and holiday parties from recruiters who have been on the meet-and-greet circuit.

By Lee Miller

Recently, I attended what was billed as the “largest networking party of the year.” There were more than 1,600 people at this event in New Jersey, run by the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce.

John S. Fitzgerald, chairman of the chamber, spoke about attendees’ opportunities to make contacts that can lead to new jobs and new customers. This got me thinking about what makes an effective networker.

I asked around, and here’s what top recruiters and hiring managers said:

1. Go to the top.

According to Savio Chan, an inveterate networker who counts among his friends the CEOs of many of America’s top companies, the key to networking is to “connect to people at the top. Otherwise you get to well-meaning people who are not in a position to really help you.” As the co-founder of Leader Connections, Chan teaches his successful networking techniques to others. While many of us outside the C-suite might wonder why a CEO would want to network with us, Chan has successfully put into practice his belief that we all have something about which we are more knowledgeable than the people with whom we seek to network. That includes CEOs.

Top executives will network with you if your expertise can be helpful to them, regardless of your status. Chan advises treating the people with whom you network as peers. With When it comes to the special talents you have to offer them, you are more than their equal. Underpinning his approach is the basic principle practiced by all effective networker s: Networking is about what you give to others rather than what you want to get.

2. Prioritize small gatherings.

While large networking groups offer the chance to connect with a wide range of individuals, smaller venues, both online and in person, make connecting easier. According to Nancy Ancowitz, business-communication coach and author of the just -released book “Self-Promotion for Introverts,” “Some of the best business relationships I’ve formed over the years got started at small networking groups, special- interest groups at professional organizations, boards of directors I’ve served on, volunteer groups I belonged to, and in other relatively small group settings.”

Ancowitz points out that these small network settings provide “an opportunity to connect in a more intimate settingwith people who may share your interests and you don’t get lost in the crowd. Introverts, in particular, often prefer a small group setting. We prefer conversations with one person at a time or in small groups. Small group members who see each other at regular intervals — say, monthly — and get to know each other are more likely to take a personal interest in each other’s success”

Marcia Glatman, an executive recruiter and founder of Coffee and Connection, is putting into practice her preferred method of networking by connecting small groups of individuals who come out of the same industry and are at the same level. By facilitating networking within these small groups, she helps the participants “get behind the resume” and truly connect with each other. This knowledgeable group of peers then becomes a personal board of advisors

Online networking is also an option, but be selective. You can make connections on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Some organizations, such as the New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners (NJAWBO.org), are launching smaller exclusive networks because these networks can be better vehicles to develop relationships between members. Regardless of the platform, “the real value of social media comes from the active engagement of the participants.

3. Don’t find the right party, throw the right party.

Career coach Irene Sinteff notes, “The holiday season tends to draw people together.” She suggests participating in holiday activities in your town and at your place of worship. Attending friends’ Christmas parties if they are allowed to bring guests is a good way to make networking contacts. Throwing a party and asking everyone you invite to bring a new friend or acquaintance will also allow you to meet new people.

4. Choose a wingman.

Craig Price of Price Points offers a technique he refers to as “barnacle networking” for individuals who are not really comfortable networking. He advises that you “find someone you know and like who is great at networking. They will be your cruise ship while you tag along with them like a barnacle.” They will introduce you to new people without the awkwardness of having to introduce yourself. For some people, an introduction raises their comfort factor .

5. Cross-promote a friend.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine of Six Figure Starts suggests a different type of “tag team” at your next networking mixer. She suggests “going together but networking separately.” This approach has you looking for people for your friend, not yourself. That way you can “talk up” your friend. And your friend does the same for you. “It is much easier to sell someone else than to sell yourself, she notes and, “at the same time, you get immediate credibility by vouching for each other.”

6. Wear something memorable.

Joyce Boncal of Advertise You tells her clients to wear something noticeable and memorable when they go to networking events. Perhaps a man could wear a colorful pocket square, or a woman could wear a “statement piece” of jewelry.

Whether in a large group or a small one, online or in person, ultimately networking success comes from the relationships you develop. The best definition of good networking I ever heard came from Wendy Vigroux, a financial advisor with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney: “Networking is not about what you want but about making a human connection.” To that I would add: Networking is about giving because that is how you make that connection. Only after you do so will people want to help you.”

Recommended Reading

The Strategic Networker

The Art of Strategic Conversation

Until next time,

Happy Networking.

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