BEST WAYS TO NETWORK

A few nights ago, I attended an event where the speaker was talking about bests way to network. I’ve attended many such events over the years, and there’s a common theme:

The speakers all have the right answer

Never mind that the speakers all say something different. They all have persuasive tactics, data, success stories and the like to convince their audience that their way is the right way.

(And to be fair, sometimes it is.)

But what bugged me about this speech was the speaker’s insistence on a canned prescription: 3 quantifiable professional accomplishments must be used within the first 5 minutes of meeting a potential networking contact. So whenever I meet someone new, I have 5 minutes to wow them with the amount of money I earned. Or percentage of new business I developed. Or customers I talked to.

I consider myself an average to above-average networker (though I have only anecdotal stories to back this up). But I was just a little intimidated by that speaker. I can only imagine how an active job seeker would feel.

“Danielle”, a former client of mine, listened to several such speeches after being laid off. A former Executive Assistant at a well-known IT company, Danielle began talking to “career experts” immediately after being handed the pink slip. They all agreed that it was imperative for Danielle to build her network, meet influential people, and attend networking events – the more, the better.

She perfected her “elevator speech.” She memorized her top accomplishments with quantifiable data. She shelled out big bucks to attend events – not easy for an unemployed woman. But the “professionals” said that this must be done. And they must be right. Right?

The event attendees were bigwigs, mostly with political affiliations. Naturally suspicious of anyone outside the “group”, they wern’t so keen on ensuing conversation once learning of Danielle’s employment status. Follow-up emails went unanswered, and Danielle wondered what she did wrong.

So what DID she do wrong?

…in my humble opinion…

Mistake #1: She believed what she heard. Just because someone has some impressive credentials doesn’t mean that person understands YOU and your motivations.

Mistake #2: Lack of knowledge. Danielle went to networking events thinking she would get her a job. She didn’t know what “networking” really means in today’s job market (I like the definitions provided by Boyer Management Group).

Mistake #3: Language misunderstanding. The attendees had a different language than Danielle’s. She tried to understand and speak theirs, but she didn’t have enough practice. Or patience.

Mistake #4: Lack of research. Had Danielle sufficiently researched the sponsoring group and the event itself, she would have found that the attendees were not part of her target audience.

Mistake #5: Not being true to herself. It turns out that Danielle hated the corporate environment in which she worked for 5 years and didn’t even want another career as an Executive Assistant. Her passion is animal welfare. While it might not be realistic to find a full-time job in this area, interacting with other people involved in the cause might spur other opportunities. 


Soon after we started working together, Danielle began volunteering with a local animal rescue group. She’s made some great friendships and truly enjoys giving back to the community. It wasn’t long before Danielle was offered a position as an Event Coordinator at a local non-profit. She works with a small but encouraging staff in an atmosphere that is much more laid back than her previous positions. Many of Danielle’s job duties are similar to those she used to do, but the work environment and people are completely different. Danielle is much happier with her quality of life.

So how did Danielle manage to land this great new job? Quite by chance. A friend from the animal rescue hosted a party one night, and Danielle introduced herself to a man there. A conversation ensued, and it turned out that the man’s brother was looking for a Receptionist/Events person, but the position hadn’t yet been advertised. Danielle eventually interviewed and landed the job.


How did YOU get the job you love? Share your inspiring stories with us!