In the September 15, 2015 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader just doesn’t get all the fuss that’s called networking.
I’ve been trying to find a mentor who understands networking better than I do. I just don’t get it. We are not expert in everything, and this is one area where I want to get some help. Can you give me some clarity about networking?
So much has been written and said about networking that networking has become a business, an industry, a racket of enormous proportions. Please! Stop doing what’s sold as “networking,” because it’s phony!
I want to barf every time I hear some silly lecture or read a pandering dissertation about how to network. Networking is not complicated. But networking has become over-defined.
Legit networking is simple: Talk shop with people who do work you want to do.
I’ll give you a few examples of what I mean.
You can meet people to talk shop online, in person, anywhere. If you read something about them in advance, just drop a quick note.
How to Say It
“Hey, I read this article about you and I see you’re working on… I’d love to know what you think about X? How’d you do what was described in the article? What are you reading lately that has influenced your work?”
If you’re talking with the person face to face, it’s even simpler.
How to Say It
“Tell me more about what you do… What kinds of challenges or problems did you encounter while working on that?”
The magic is in asking them to talk about themselves and their work. People love that, as long as you’re not being solicitous. And you won’t be if you just talk shop.
It takes time to make meaningful connections through these exchanges. Be patient. Don’t expect much, don’t expect it quickly, and good things will evolve in time. The best part: No matter what benefits you get or don’t get career-wise, you make new friends!
When you get to the point where you want to talk about your career challenges, here’s the magic sauce: Never ask for job leads. Never.
Instead, ask for advice and insight.
How to Say It
“May I ask your advice? If I wanted to shift over to doing XYZ [as your new job], what kind of advice would you give me? I’d love your insight about what it takes to be successful doing what you do.”
See the difference? Never say anything that feels icky or phony. There’s no begging, no asking for jobs or introductions. Results will come naturally — people will eventually suggest someone else that you should talk to. And that’s what to keep track of — people you’re referred to, who they are, where they work, what they do.
Beware, or I’ll never talk to you again
Then there’s the most important thing. If someone recommends a person that you should talk with, or offers an introduction or referral — always make the contact and do it quickly. Never let a personal referral die on the vine.
If I give you a referral, and I find out you didn’t follow up within 3-4 days, I’ll never do anything for you again. Usually, I’ll tip off the third party to expect a call or e-mail. When the person I’m trying to help doesn’t make that contact, I’ve wasted an introduction and I look bad. I can’t emphasize this enough — it’s the single biggest networking mistake people make. If you want good mentors in your life, do not squander the investment they make in you. (See Mentoring & Getting Mentored.)
Networking should be as easy as talking shop with people who do the work you want to do.
Next week, I’ll share my three ingredients for good, healthy networking. But, right now I’d like to know, What’s your way to get close to others professionally?
I’d love to assemble a list of to-dos, not-to-dos, and basic rules for making friends in the work world. Please post your advice and cautions!