Moving forward we will meet at…
This, our new “homeport,” is located one block west of the Tollway (Gibbons), on the south side of Frankford Road. THIS week, Thursday, November 21st…
Being Prepared For Networking During The HO-Ho-holidaze ahead: A look at the realities of networking during the Holiday season ahead
NETWORKING: A Career Strategy We network effectively in our daily life to find trusted auto mechanics, the best doctors, the least expensive grocery store—we ask our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers… THAT is networking! And what makes it work for us is the interaction involved, we are communicating with others in its most basic form.
So why panic and freeze during career transition? Simply begin where ever you find yourself right now… and build from there for the rest of your career. And the holidays ahead present a great starting point.
Technology is your friend, here. Technology is the best way to leverage the time that you have available for productive and efficient networking. Technology provides you the tools; but remember, technology is not a replacement for your #1 task… it is up to you to identify and develop those relationships that will get you the results you seek… for the rest of your career. Remember…
Networking is a contact sport!
WHERE To Start
As a contact sport, networking is about interaction between sender and receiver, buyer and seller… job seeker and potential employers. The great news is that you get to start from YOUR ‘sweet spot’ or middle ground where all this interaction occurs the easiest! You start with people that you already know or have some connection to.
If your ‘natural network’ doesn’t have a regular meeting—most do not, by their very diverse nature—groups of like minded people are easy to identify and attend. As you begin to reach out and broaden your ‘sweet spot,’ be selective in your attempt to create a supportive ‘community’ grouping close to your targeted marketplace.
Networking within your targeted marketplace, your unique, job search ‘community’ should play a critical role in your Personal Marketing strategies. It is an easy means to getting the word out about your business to people who may purchase and influence others to purchase your service or goods.
But just as with any other job search activity, we get what we put into it. That being said, local networking events are seeing record turnouts lately, a sign that leads us to believe the networking is paying off. A Local Networking Group is any organization, which meets on a regular basis, to share and receive referrals and leads.
Examples of formal Local Networking groups for small and medium sized business include: BNI (Business Networking International), Merchants’ Associations, Chambers of Commerce, and Business Associations.
Some of the largest local organizations devoted to supporting job seeker efforts are Career Connections, Frisco Connect, Cathedral of Hope, the Southlake Group, Watermark Church… to name just a few.
Many are associated with church support organizations… but are completely non-denominational in their approach, operation and outreach.
WHAT to Start With
If you have a huge personal contact network to start with… great! Start by prioritizing your list into three sub categories…
Seasoned networkers with terrific phone and interview skills will undoubtedly start their networking efforts at the “B” and “SEE” list levels… but for the ‘normal’ job seeker this represents pre-mature activity. Use the earlier preparation steps, practice time, and your first several ‘baby steps’ to develop your effectiveness BEFORE having to perform for your best contacts.
“Don’t shoot yourself in the foot.”
Further, try to avoid the temptation to respond to your sense of urgency in securing your next employment, with lack of adequate preparation and planning—the first seven steps—don’t be guilty of…
“Ready… FIRE… Aim”
It is as easy as a-b-c…
- Develop your networking prowess with your “A” List contacts
- Exercise and practice your newfound skills within the job search support, local networking groups…beginning to reach toward a bigger “B” list
- Fold-in professional associations and trade groups as a way to strengthen and accelerate the development of your “B” list
“See” list contacts WILL happen!
Peculiarities of Local Networking Events
As mention previously… BE SELECTIVE, honoring your own personality and needs. Although they are essentially in place to accomplish the same result, the local networking groups can be quite different. When selecting a group or several groups it’s best to “lurk before you leap” into actually joining. Each tends to have their own unique culture and ‘personality.’
BNI has very specific rules for joining their organization, including a yearly fee, a one-industry-per-chapter rule, and a requirement that you attend every week (with a two week exception every few months).
Some networking events or organizations will charge a fee, while others do not. There are also groups designed to serve the needs and interests of specific segments of business owners such as women, African Americans, and Hispanics.
Many local networking attendees always seem to prefer to attend the largest networking events in order to get in front of more people, however, keep in mind the number attending is inversely proportionate to the amount of time one has to explain who they are to the group.
Each organization has its own method for increasing attendees awareness of the participants business. Some section off attendees into groups to play team building games that will enable them to remember each other’s business. As a job seeker, your thirty second ‘elevator pitch’ must be mastered and done conversationally well.
Tips for Attending Local Networking Events…
Before you even think of attending, have your ‘verbal collateral’ nailed down and perfect (15 and 30 second elevator pitches, including a qualification statement, as well as longer ‘commercials’ in answer to, “Tell Me About Yourself” queries). Depending on the size of the group, most Local Networking groups will give 15 to 60 seconds to all attendees to give their elevator pitch.
Don’t forget your business cards. Every local marketing group will ask you for at least one business card. Some will make copies of all business cards and pass it out to the general audience of attendees. When people hear your elevator pitch, they will often refer to this list of business cards to find out more about you, write down your number, etc.
Show up early and work the room. It is good to have your own name badge that carries a positioning statement. A lot of networking occurs prior to the event start time. People do business with (and refer business to) those who make them feel comfortable. You don’t have to be a salesman, just genuine.
Regardless if you’re normally an introvert, during this time you must force yourself to be eager to “grip and grin.” It may feel awkward at first, but you must force yourself to stand next to two people talking, if only to introduce yourself to them.
Above all, remember that you’re in it for the long haul, the rest of your career. Just as bloggers must realize that they need to provide daily attention to their blogs, so must local networkers understand the need to attend as frequently as the networking events are offered. Attending a weekly event once a month is a lot like a weight lifter who works out once a month – he’s just going to make himself sore.
Remember, you’re not attending the events just to sell your products or services to the other attendees, although that occurs occasionally; rather you’re there to influence them – to make them feel comfortable enough to pass on your information to their customer bases and circles of influence.
Once you start attending, you’ll find that the relationships, and even friendships, you’ve established will make you think of these people first when your customers have a need for someone in their fields. Be a “TOP GUN” Networker, assisting others to be making contacts while you are developing your network.
BABY STEPS Revisited
Be your own best coach… pay homage to the five hundred pound gorillas in the room, TECHNOLOGY, specifically social media… and your own communication preferences, even the most passive communicators must learn to engage and interact… but with whom?
Use your FREE LinkedIn account to organize your contact list and to function like a road map of who to network to next. Once identified, get on the phone and meet your newest “A” list contact. You’ll never know when a ‘hidden gem’ of a “B” or “See” list contact will materialize in the process.