In my last post I noted networking events can sometimes feel awkward. The good news is, they are not the only venue. In fact, they aren’t even where I do most of my networking.
Believe it or not, you have numerous chances to network—at the gym, work, school, happy hour, parties, baseball games, church, organizations, reunions. Are you getting the picture? It happens every day. Since that’s the case it’s in your best interest to learn to maximize every opportunity, but also to know when to relax. Think about the past week. Can you remember a few opportunities where you could have made a connection?
A couple of weeks ago, not only did I meet the recruiters I mentioned in the last post, I also attended a breakfast that Saturday and exchanged information with an attendee who is also interested in writing—so of course I invited her to our group.
Recently I had lunch with a friend I met while serving on an advisory board to do some fact-finding for a novel. She introduced me to a local sports agent she knew that we bumped into as we were leaving. We chatted for a few minutes about sports and his role as an agent—I even mentioned an applicant I’d spoken with who was seeking a professional basketball career. Because I come across several Sports Management majors, as well as athletes, we exchanged information and he told me they were seeking an intern. Should I come across anyone interested in that field I will definitely make the referral. Not to mention, if I ever add a sports agent to a manuscript he’d be a great resource. The friend, by the way, has invited me to sit on the board of her non-profit.
Two years ago at a United Way appreciation dinner I met a colleague’s wife who happens to be a trademark lawyer. At the time I was working to trademark a tag line for future publications. We struck up a conversation and she answered questions I didn’t even realize I had. Later, when a company informed me they wanted to publish my novel I was able to reach out to my new contact to get a recommendation for an entertainment lawyer.
That being said, remember to use some discernment. Be careful not to pry. Learn to “read” the person with whom you are speaking. If their eyes are glazing over, wrap it up! As I mentioned, I am one of those people who never met a stranger, but if the person you strike up a conversation with doesn’t contribute they are shouting (silently, of course), “I’d like to remain a stranger, please.”.
When should you network? When it’s appropriate. If you gain a friend but not a client you’ve still expanded your network. What you can get or gain shouldn’t be the first thing on your mind even at a formal networking event. Think, instead, about what you are bringing to the table.
For example, while I love being a recruiter, when I’m out with friends the last thing I want is for someone to ask me to review their resume. And we recruiters get that question a lot. Just as my husband, an IT professional, gets the, ‘My computer isn’t working, can you take a look at it?’ question far more often than he’d like. I’m sure I have been guilty of violating this advice. In the example above, however, the person offered information when I mentioned my tag line which, after some questions about her career, led me to believe she wouldn’t mind a question or two. The fact that she gave me her business card backed that up. Again, discernment is key. If the person who is a chef says, “Oh I just love to cook any chance I get,” it’s probably okay to talk recipes.
Think about your skills, talents and abilities. What have been some of your biggest and best accomplishments? What have you learned from your mistakes? Who is in your network that could use an assist? This is what you can share. The next time you find yourself speaking with someone new think about how you might pour into their life.
Your roommate’s cousin is starting a business and you can build a website in your sleep. Offer to help or recommend a friend who can. You meet someone at a party who’s thinking about the study abroad program and you just got back from your study abroad trip to London. Tell her where she should visit and how to avoid some travel woes. While your pup, Champ, is racing around the dog park you meet someone new to the area who is in temporary housing. Your friend happens to be a realtor, so make the introduction.
Once you have the connection it opens the door for future opportunities that might not have even come to mind. The cousin could recommend you to others, the party acquaintance might think of you when she hears about a job opportunity during her internship abroad. When the guy from the dog park buys his house and invites you over for the housewarming you could meet your future business partner.
Don’t let another week pass without making a connection. Whether you find yourself at a ball game, your run club or grabbing a bite to eat, you never know who you might cross your path.
Come back next time for some Do’s and Don’ts for networking events.