We are repeatedly told the power of networking right? To some of us it comes naturally (lucky them) and to others, it can fill us with dread (we get it). The great thing is all of us can up our networking game in a way that doesn’t have to feel icky. And what if I were to tell you that both parties can walk away (or exit a zoom room) glad that they bumped into one another?
So, why do we care about networking? Well here are three reasons that massively resonate with me:
Let’s just get super clear here, I am not saying that you need to be famous. Far from it but you will be massively helped by your network. LinkedIn research recently shared that 85% of jobs are obtained through networking! Too many of us rely on a reactive mindset when it comes to our career (myself included) and by nurturing a network NOW we can get rid of that just in time mindset!
Networking isn’t all about you though. If you take nothing else away from this article then think to yourself how you can be of service or value to others? At the end of the day, all humans crave connection and most of us find purpose in supporting others too.
There has never been a better time to reframe how we think about networking. Covid has ironically breathed fresh air into who and how we connect with one another. So, if networking is up there with top fears of public speaking, solo surgeries, insert your fear here! Then this article is for you.
What do you read?
Opportunities are nowhere?
Or something else?
Great networking is a strategy not to be taken for granted. Let’s supercharge your networking toolbox.
1. Who is already available to you?
Who do you know? If you are thinking no one then let’s take a mo to touch base with your world. Who do you know at your current work? Your friends and their friends? What about previous jobs and universities? Alumni networks are gold dust! What about your clients? The other departments in your organisation if you work in a larger entity? What about the online communities you are part of? Delegates that joined you at CE events? There were over 1000 at the Global Veterinary Careers Summit! Do you volunteer anywhere? I think now your circle of connections just got larger didn’t it.
2. Think about being a broker or bridge of connections
Here is an exercise for you to try. Grab a pen and paper (or a spreadsheet) and draw three columns.
Column one = people who have been influential in your career
Column two= who did I meet them through
Column three= who did I introduce to them
We can all be enablers and brokers and exert our influence. If we think about networking from this angle then it begins to change the notion of networking from what can I get to what can I give. That middle column is going to show you the bridges and brokers in your career- these are people worth reconnecting with. If you have lots of different people in this column or if column three is full of people then you are likely a bridge or broker already. So, a big thank you on behalf of all the career explorers you have helped.
3. Reengage with old connections without putting the pressure on
Here are some email/text templates you can personalise to get you started. How about sending them to three of your previous career brokers right now!
“Hey X, I hope you’re well. I would love an update on how Y was for you. Things here have been great since Z. No rush on replying as I know you are busy with Y and doing a great job for Z.”
Or you could also try
“Hey X hope you are well. As you are well connected in Y industry I wondered if you had a connection I could speak to to pick their brains on Z. No rush at all.”
4. Networking No-Nos
Here are some GREAT pieces of advice I wish I had channelled earlier in my career
Don’t hide behind email! Care re relying on one form of communication. We all have different preferences. You can build greater rapport by moving from email/LinkedIn/text to a call or zoom and also less room for misinterpretation of the words on the page!
Refrain from making the meeting request all about you! How can you make it a win-win conversation?
Sticking with people we know. We all need fresh perspectives – register for an online event outside your sector and connect with new people.
Not asking for action or confirming the next steps – keep momentum and manage the expectations so all parties can make an informed decision about whether they are in a position to help you right now.
Fearful of rejection – when people don’t reply straight away it doesn’t mean they are ignoring you. They may have forgotten or your note got lost in spam. Be pleasantly persistent.
5. Making the most of events
A compilation that can be used for in-person and online events. What else would you add to the mix?
A simple one that often gets ignored. Know why you are attending? What does success look like? By getting clarity here you can hone in on your networking requirements.
Check out who will be there, both speakers and exhibitors. Who would you like to connect with? Who interests you? Who can you help?
Connect with people before the event before the “noise” sets in and make sure to build in context that is significant to them when you reach out.
Add updates in your social media status that you are checking into an event. It is a great way for people to connect with you!
Use your consultation skills! Many people worry about what to say when you connect. If you are genuinely interested in someone else, the conversation will flow. Trust me! A networking mantra to remember: “Be interested over interesting!” Listen to what lights that person up. Arm yourself with some powerful questions.
Use poignant questions – what brings you here? What do you do for kicks? Listen to the backstory and use the three Ps of conversation to channel positive, personal and pride-evoking moments.
If you have met them before introduce yourself and remind them of your name and where you first met. Not everyone is good with names (my hands are up) and this breaks the ice.
Body language and lighting (for online events)! The secret ingredients to building rapport and trust. Open up, maintain eye contact, show active listening and as most of us are online make sure your camera is clean and focused on your face and torso to enable hand gestures to be captured. Check your lighting is on your face and that the background isn’t too busy!
Act like the host – If you see people are quiet or not involved in a conversation, reach out as you never know where that connection may lead.
Don’t plan too much. A lot of new connections can be made through serendipitous path crossings – from exhibitor halls to online community chats!
6. Work on a memorable intro
You will be asked to introduce yourself so get comfortable with showcasing yourself. Let’s make it memorable though. What anecdote, or part of your story can you bring to the fore? Practice saying it out loud and make sure it fits. Just like when you try on new clothes, these words need to make you feel comfortable, approachable and looking sharp!
Check out this super article How to introduce yourself so you’ll be unforgettable (in a good way) by TED ideas. I have been using a variation of this when I meet with people outside of the veterinary sector:
“I’m Ebony and I am on a quest to showcase the humans behind healthcare. Vets are my current muse (I also work as one). I love shining spotlights on people’s stories alongside science to support healthy careers for the ones that care. There are too many wounded healers who burn out before they have a chance to shine.”
7. Fanning the flames & prepping for leverage
Keep the momentum by messaging people you have appreciated connecting with within 48 hours of meeting.
“It was great to meet you! You now have me thinking about X. I hope Y goes well”
Think of creative ways to stay in touch. I can hear you saying that is all good and well but how?
If you have connected on social media you will have access to their birthday and personal news. Send them an email a day before their birthday and that will show how observant and caring you are.
Text them if you notice a big life event such as new job, marriage, promotion etc
Share events or articles that you think would interest them based on the conversations you have had. It will help to broaden their horizon too and I guarantee they will appreciate it. I certainly do!
Use voice notes – I often overthink what I am going to write so voice notes allow me to bring my authentic self to the fore and is super time efficient too.
Keep a Rolodex! Log your contacts – this is for you spreadsheet lovers! I am struggling to keep all my contacts in my head so this is a way to ensure I nurture and keep up to date with my network.
So, what should you record? Have a column for the name, where you met them, contact info, useful info from your conversations, significant events coming up for them such as presenting at a conference. You can then set reminders in your calendar to send them a good luck note.
All of these tips will help to foster responsibility, accountability, discipline, courage and humility. All great traits that your future employers, collaborators and partners will thank you for.
So, what do you read now? #Opportunitiesarenowhere
Opportunities are now here! Go get em tiger!
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