How Do You Network?
- Create a Goal: Set short and long-term goals to bring focus and purpose to any networking event. Goals will also guide what events you attend, who you’ll talk to and what you’ll talk about. Set a goal before you leave the house.
- Open Doors: Look for obvious and non-obvious opportunities to connect with other people, whether comfortable or not because the more you put yourself out there and make meaningful connections the greater your chances of accomplishing your goals.
How to Make Networking Work: Rules 3 and 4
Rule #3 Announce Your Goal
Once you’re out there you have a choice to make. Do you want to be the pig or the chicken? Allow me to explain.
Think of breakfast for a moment. For their individual parts in the making of breakfast, the pig commits, but the chicken is only involved. Think about it… bacon and eggs.
Be like the pig.
How do you really commit to making networking work for you? The answer is simple. Announce your goal. Doing so, causes two things to happen.
- You make a personal commitment. We have a desire to create consistency with ourselves, and we’ll work hard to maintain that
consistency, thus making our goals a reality. If we never voice it we can’t be held accountable to it.
- We give others a chance to help us. People tend to want to help others, especially when they can. That’s good news, because face it – we need people to reach our goals.
What Does Jason Segel Know about Networking?
Jason Segel, from the hit TV show How I Met Your Mother, offers a great example of making a goal into a reality through the art of announcement.
Jason grew up loving the Muppets. It was his first introduction to comedy and he was passionate about it. He’s even reported to have shed a tear or two when he met Kermit the first time.
Jason had a goal (Rule #1). He wanted to make a Muppet move. Jason was able to open doors (Rule #2) into various movie studios due to his Hollywood connections and accomplishments. In 2008 he opened a door to a meeting with an executive from Disney and that’s when he struck. In that meeting he told her “I want to do a Muppet movie.”
But that wasn’t enough for Jason. As Andrew Golman explains in his November 2011 Wired Magazine interview with Jason:
Segel felt like things weren’t moving quickly enough; well before there was any sign that a new Muppet movie would even happen, he took his campaign public, first and most notably on Craig Ferguson’s Late Late Show [4:40]. “It was a dirty strategy,” he admits. “But I was so hungry to make this movie that I started talking about it publicly just so someone had to say either ‘We’re not doing this, stop talking about it’ or ‘We’re gonna do it.’
Jason shared his goal on national television for all the world to hear. A very pig-like move…but it in the new good way. And I’m not referring to Miss Piggy. He went on to write and star in The Muppets (2011), a huge box office success and recipient of multiple awards, including an Oscar for Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Man or Muppet).
We don’t all have a national stage for announcing our goals, but the lesson we can learn from Jason is that by putting it out there we greatly increase our chances of achieving our goals.
My goal, which I introduced in Part 1 was getting a university teaching gig. Announcing my goal was about telling as many people as I could that this was something I wanted. I reached out to former MBA professors, former colleagues who also taught, friends who had teaching friends, and so on. While they didn’t all result in a lead or piece of advice, some did. And with each telling, my goal became more real, and my commitment more solid.
One university contact made all the difference. I shared my goal over a lunch meeting. Next thing I knew he introduced me to the Dean of the business school. That chance encounter was during a university mixer, which preceded a panel discussion on which I was a volunteer participant.
This was the surprise opportunity I mentioned in my first post that comes when you Open Doors (Rule #2).
During my unplanned two-minute casual discussion with the Dean I worked in my goal of teaching at the university level. I ticked off a few of my credentials and asked if he had any advice on how to pursue something like this. He offered a few tips and then at the end of the conversation he did something unexpected. He asked me to send him my resume.
Rule #4 Close the Loop
Those who don’t make the personal effort to realize a goal will end up disappointed and empty handed.
Consider the following story:
A religious man is on top of a roof during a great flood. A man comes by in a boat and says “Get in, get in!” The religious man replies, “No I have faith in God, he will grant me a miracle.”
Later the water is up to his waist and another boat comes by and the guy tells him to get in. He responds that he has faith in God, who will give him a miracle.
With the water at about chest high, a third boat comes to rescue him, but he turns down the offer again saying, “God will grant me a miracle.”
With the water at chin high, a helicopter throws down a ladder and they tell him to get in. Mumbling with the water in his mouth, he again turns down the request for help for the faith of God.
He arrives at the gates of heaven with broken faith and says to Peter, I thought God would grant me a miracle and I have been let down.” St. Peter chuckles and responds, “I don’t know what you’re complaining about, we sent you three boats and a helicopter.”
adapted from www.ahajokes.com
This story illustrates the individual role we each must play in achieving success. If we want good things to happen, we have to make good things happen.
Closing the loop with a person we meet is simple and can be accomplished through a variety of channels.
- A phone call
- An email
- A social media connection (LinkedIn, Twitter, etc)
We just have to choose to do it. And the content of a loop closure could look something like this:
It was a pleasure meeting you at the XYZ event last night. I enjoyed hearing about the great things your company is doing. You may recall that during our chat I expressed interest in learning more about ABC and how I might be able to contribute. Can we meet in the next couple of weeks to explore further?
The content will really depend on your goal and the nature of your discussion. The key is to do it quickly, make it brief, and include a call to action.
Turn each opportunity into another opportunity.
Your chances of getting a response from someone increases when you ask a close-ended question, offer to help, contribute something of value, or ask for advice. Essentially, while closing a loop you’re opening a new one.
Keep in mind that, just as not every event you attend is guaranteed to advance your goals, not every person you close the loop with will yield something. Simply, they won’t all respond. And again, that’s okay.
In my case, do you think the Dean would have reached back out to me if I had never sent him my resume? No. But he didn’t have to. I sent him my resume. That night.
Check back for my last post where I will cover the fifth and final rule. Until then, how do you network?
For more on networking from around the web:
- 5 Tips For Networking at Events (lifehack.org)
- The Complete Guide to Networking for New Grads (collegefeed.com)
- 16 networking mistakes that can derail your career (womeninpr.wordpress.com)
- Networking Mistakes Most Entrepreneurs Make (theappentrepreneur.com)