5 Rules to Make Networking Work: Part III

<- 5 Rules to Make Networking Work: Part II

How Do You Network?

Networking3

In Parts I and II of this series I shared the first 4 of 5 Rules to Make Networking Work:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Announce Your Goal: When we tell people what we want we make a personal commitment to our goals and we also give people a chance to help us.  By putting our goals on display we greatly increase our chances of achieving them.
  4. Close the Loop: We have an important and individual role to play in achieving success.  If we want good things to happen, we have to make good things happen.  We do this by following-up with people we meet at a networking event.  Close the loop and open a new one.

How to Make Networking Work: Rule 5

Rule #5 Help Others

Monkeys

This last rule is about switching our focus to others.  Recently I had lunch with a wonderful colleague and friend who has been helping me advance some of my professional goals.   Half way through the meal I paused the conversation to thank her for offering me her limited time and energy.  Her response, “More than happy to do it.  I believe helping others comes back to us in a variety of ways.”

And she’s right.  Plain and simple, I’ll find myself more than happy to offer my own time and energy some day toward the advancement of her goals.  That’s the basic rule of reciprocity.

The more you open doors (Rule #2) the more opportunity you’ll find to help and influence others.  And that is something to embrace.  When you ask questions to get to know others, as suggested in Part I, you’ll discover you may have something to offer.  Ideas, information, connections, resources, and the list goes on.

If you’ll recall, Rule #4 was about closing the loop.  Perhaps your follow-up will be focused on the other person instead of yourself.  And that is a great strategy to take.

But don’t keep score. 

scoreboard-me-1-you-0_design

This is the “golden rule of networking” as explained by Harvey Mackay, bestselling author of Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive, and others:

  1. Over time, people will find ways to do remarkable and unexpected things for you that make your life easier. If you manage your career and live your life in this way, two magical things will happen:
  2. When you’re hit by a storm, you are likely to find the most astonishing human network of support you could ever imagine.

I personally find this to be the most pleasant way to go about a networking activity.  With my mind trained on expressing genuine interest in others and how I can help them, I discover these events to be entirely bearable.

Through my networking efforts as I pursued an adjunct teaching gig, I found my best skill to offer others was career advice and resume review. I gave a handful of people advice on their résumé without expecting anything in return, but I remained optimistic that something good may come from it.

And it did.  I am proud to be an adjunct instructor at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA).   Networking worked for me. Can it work for you?

5 Rules to Make Networking Work

In closing, social media has come a long way in the last few years and made connecting with people easier.  It just requires a click of a button.  But social media should only augment, not replace, the more traditional connections that occur through human interactions. It takes an understanding of what you’re after, and a little concentrated effort to make the most of any networking opportunity.

  1. Create a goalNetworking2
  2. Open doors
  3. Announce your goal
  4. Close the loop
  5. Help others

Consider this: What are you after? How can these 5 Rules to Make Networking Work work for you?

How else do you network? Share your thoughts below.

<- 5 Rules to Make Networking Work: Part II

For more on networking from around the web:

5 Rules to Make Networking Work: Part II

<–5 Rules to Make Networking Work: Part 1

How Do You Network?

Announce

In Part I of this series I shared the first 2 of 5 Rules to Make Networking Work:

  1. 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.
  2. Open DoorsLook 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.

  1. Pig or ChickenYou 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.
  2. 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 werent 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 Fergusons 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 Were not doing this, stop talking about it or Were gonna do it.

Segel and KermitJason 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

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?

Roll Dice

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?

Rules to Make Networking Work: Part 3 –>

For more on networking from around the web:

5 Rules to Make Networking Work: Part I

 5 Rules to Make Networking Work: Part II ->

How Big is Your Network?

Networking pic

I’d like to begin with a brief brag.  I am pleased to announce that I have more than one thousand friends.  I can prove it.  Just look at my accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Foursquare, Instagram, and all the other social media outlets available.

Okay, so one thousand “friends” probably isn’t a lot compared to other people’s networks, but it feels like a lot to me.  Especially since, in reality, I don’t know most of them.   But I’m sure they’re all wonderful people.

What is Networking?

For the longest time I had this rule that I would not “accept” or “friend” anyone I did not have some human contact with on at least one occasion.  But I recently broke my own rule.  I succumbed to the ever mounting pressure of the daily stream of online connection requests.

So if you happened to notice the day when I suddenly became very popular on LinkedIn now you know why.  I accepted all those requests that had piled up for years.

And this got me thinking.  Is this networking?  Or is there more to it?

What is networking, why do we do it and how? 

Here’s How to Network

If I’m to be honest, once upon at time I didn’t really get networking.  I knew it had something to do with connecting to people and trying to get stuff.  But I didn’t really understand the steps involved.  Until recently, when I was thrown into the unfamiliar waters of networking, forced to navigate my way until I could achieve a goal that could only be gained through networking.

Looking back on my experience I see what worked.  The result is a list of 5 rules for making networking work.

Rule #1  Create a Goal

To make networking worthwhile it helps if you know what you’re after. Zig Ziglar, American author, salesman and motivational speaker, famously said,

“If you aim at nothing you’ll hit it every time.”

That’s easy.  Know what else is easy? Setting a goal.

Events

With no goal you may find yourself at an event flailing, lost and frustrated, asking yourself, “why am I here?”

A goal gives you a focus for any social or business engagement.  It guides what event you attend, who you’ll talk to and what you’ll talk about.  Set a goal before you leave the house.

A goal can be long-term, like getting a new job or new clients, or it can be short-term, like “at this event I’ll exchange business cards with three new contacts” or “I’ll find someone who knows about xyz and ask their advice.”

My goal

My long-term goal was to secure an adjunct teaching position to compliment my day job as an HR professional.  There was one problem.  A quick look at the open positions on the internet reflected that teaching positions simply weren’t available.

A colleague wise on the subject told me that the openings may not always be posted and that sometimes you just have to talk to the right people.  You know what that means. I had to network.

I had my goal.  And I needed to network.  Now what?

Rule #2 Open Doors

Open DoorsI started opening doors to meet people who might have information, ideas, or connections to help me advance my teaching goal.

For example, I started volunteering with local business schools, helping students with writing elevator speeches and practicing their interviewing skills.  Ultimately, this did two things for me.

  1. It allowed me to give back in a way that I felt good about
  2. It put me in the same physical space with university people who would later offer advice and ideas on how to pursue a teaching gig

As you can you see from my example, a networking event isn’t always obvious.  I define a networking event as “any event where two or more people share space.” They can be less obvious like my volunteering example or more obvious like an event that is advertised for just that purpose.

It is at these formal networking events where I believe many people struggle, especially those who don’t enjoy or consider themselves good at schmoozing.  Like me.

The reality is that in order to make things happen we need to push ourselves into these situations, comfortable or not.  Neale Donald Walsch, an American author, said,

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” 

We should take a cue from Mr. Walsch and accept that some interactions aren’t comfortable, but we need to do them anyway.

For each of these events, remember Rule #1: Create a Goal.  Enter these events with your long-term goal in mind and set mini-goals to get you through the event.  Also try these:

Three more tips to make a networking event workable:

  1. Take a buddy.  Someone who is outgoing and has the ability to get conversations started and/or can connect you with people they already know.  Just don’t let the friend become a crutch.
  2. Ask questions One of the best ways to get a conversation started and keep it going is to be curious.  Show genuine interest in others and really listen to what they say.  Good questions to ask, among others, are “what do you think about the event,” “what are you working on”, “what do you do for fun”, “that’s interesting, can you tell me more/elaborate further?”  Of course, be careful you don’t overdo it and become the “creepy question guy.”  Have something to offer the conversation and you should be fine.
  3. Volunteer It may be a pure networking event, but you can still contribute.  Reach out to the organizers and offer a helping hand.  If you’re like me, it helps to have something to do.  But keep it light.  Remember you’re offering to help, not to become the help.

Life BeginsThe more you put yourself out there and make meaningful connections the greater your chances of something good happening.  With that said, it is best to maintain realistic expectations. Because not every event you attend will bare fruit, and that is perfectly okay.

On the flip side, you may be surprised what an event can yield for you by way of information, leads, contacts, or other opportunities you never expected.

That happened to me, and I’ll share more in Part II.  Stay tuned for my next post where I will share rules three and four.

Until then, how do you network?  Share your thoughts.

 5 Rules to Make Networking Work: Part II ->

More thoughts on networking from around the web:

Make Every Interaction Count

Image“I really disklike the term networking.” A colleague of mine recently uttered these words. He was responding to a discussion that a group of us were having on the topic. We were offering each other tips and tricks. Things we had tried that worked.

I must say, I couldn’t blame him for how he felt about the word. It inspires feelings and images of something uncomfortable. Many shudder at the thought of meeting new people, and carrying on a conversation with a stranger. But, my hang up with networking isn’t like most people. I like meeting new people and don’t consider myself shy or nervous in any group settings.

My number one hang up with networking hearkens back to what I think my colleague was referring to when he said he didn’t like the word. To me, the process feels so artificial and unnatural. I find that unless a situation promises to have a purpose or to add value to all those participating, I will typically avoid it. For example, if you try striking up a conversation with me on a plane, chances are before you can say “hello” I’ll have a book out and my headphones on. The unfortunate fact is that my experiences with plane conversations have been that, while we are physically going somewhere, the conversations typically do not. Both parties are forced into a discussion due to proximity and one or both often feels obligated to continue the conversation from lift-off to landing. They start well, but so often trail off into no-man’s land of fluffy meaningless remarks. Harsh, I know. But, here’s an interesting fact. There was an exception to my plane experiences, and she has become a friend for life. What was different about that conversation? It has something to do with the advice that two colleagues provided me recently.

Two very smart people in my life, on separate occasions, explained to me that networking doesn’t have to be all that bad. I described it as a “necessary evil” to one, and she told me I’ve got it all wrong. I explained my aversion to plane and association meeting conversations to the other, and he basically told me to get over it.

The lesson they taught me: Make every interaction count.

And that’s on me.

I know they are right. Because isn’t networking one of those keys to success that everyone is always talking about? My company boasts referrals as its number one source of hiring, as do many other companies. In fact, ask most people, and they’ll tell you instinctively that networking is how you get hired these days. Sure, I know that. And the ironic thing is I even tell college students that networking is part of ensuring a long time successful career, and they should start early.

When I think back on situations when networking worked, they have two things in common.

Have a purpose

What’s your goal? Is it a new job? A new client? To learn how someone else has solved a problem that you’re facing? Figure this out and then make a connection or two who can help you. And if your goal is simply to meet new people, then make the purpose apply to whatever situation you are entering. Attending a party? Offer to help. Joining a professional association? Volunteer for a committee.

Taking it another step, perhaps the other person has a purpose. How can you help them? Who can you connect them to?

Follow-up

You may have had a nice conversation with your new contact, but unless you make contact again, that will likely be the last conversation you have. A follow-up can be an email, a hand written note, a phone call, an introduction to a third party, or better yet an invitation for coffee to continue the conversation. Make every opportunity turn into another opportunity. That’s on you.

So, I’m turning over a new leaf. I will have at least four opportunities in the next two weeks to sit next to a stranger on a plane. My purpose will be to ask what they do for a living, how they like it, and if they’d recommend it to someone else.

What have you done to make networking count?