We all know that when it comes to landing a killer career, it’s not just what you know, but WHO you know that matters. The word “networking” can sound a little overwhelming. Personally, when I hear the word, I think of a room full of peddlers and sales booths or an awkward “blind business date” with a family friend who gives advice rather than connections. At the very best, I think of the cyber capital of networking, LinkedIn.
Since I haven’t advanced my career or landed an interview in any of these ways, I didn’t know how to advise you guys when it came to a networking strategy. So, as per usual, I tapped into my pool of Business Gurus, and in a culmination of their advice and some research, The Smarter Networking Experiment was born.
Today’s experiment is three-fold.
1. Treat your everyday interactions as networking opportunities. When I reached out to a CEO of a multi-billion dollar Medical company about networking, he stopped me cold at the reference of LinkedIn. He said that he receives tons of LinkedIn requests daily. He views them as very transparent attempts to start a one-way relationship where they are likely to ask for something or offer something he has no interest in. When I asked if he had ever helped a twentysomething get a job thanks to a networking connection this is what he had to say:
“Oh, well, of course. Just the other day I met a kid at the health club in our neighborhood and after chatting a bit by the water cooler I asked him for his resume. I was glad to help him once we had established that personal connection.”
The gym! What a novel idea! This twentysomething debunked the myth that solid networking only happens in a formal setting by openly sharing with a stranger that he had recently graduated college and was interested in Healthcare. Imagine he had opted to keep the conversation topic to the weather? For part 1, start talking about your career aspirations with just about anyone. Hey, you never know!
2. Tap into your weak ties. Meg Jay, author of “The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now”, advises that we seek advice and connections outside of our close friends and family. She notes that we already know most of the same information as our inner circle and had there been a connection, we probably would have already known about them. Opportunities, interviews and information spread through our acquaintances, former co-workers or one-time classmates also known as our weak ties. So for this part of the experiment, try setting a catch up date with one of your weak ties and don’t be shy about sharing details about your career status and goals!
3. Be prepared! Now that you’ve changed your mindset about what networking really is, you have to adjust your approach accordingly. For part three, make sure that you have the tools to follow through with these connections. These are weak ties, which means they probably don’t feel obligated to go out of their way for you. So, for part three of your experiment, make the process as seamless as possible by doing the following:
- Create and keep business/personal cards in your wallet/car at all times.
- Have an up-to-date resumé ready to go.
- Think of a thoughtful question that would apply to your specific network. Mine would be for a successful blogger (of which I have happened upon a few!). Here is an example: “I am still in the first stages of my blog and have been wrestling with what risks I should take in order to better monetize my business. What was the turning point for your blog in taking your business to the next level and what was your biggest mistake?” When you remind them about how they felt when they were first starting out, they warm to you.
- Create and memorize your Personal Mission Statement (way better than an elevator pitch!).
This experiment is not meant to be a substitute for formal Networking Events or LinkedIn. Not having a LinkedIn is a clear disadvantage, but having one isn’t necessarily going to translate into an interview or rank advancement. This simple mindset shift will help you to be more intentional with your daily interactions and is bound to connect you to your future life! Experience with Smarter Networking? Share in the comments below!