Quick tip before I launch into this topic. Please help your friends, family members and colleagues network more effectively. And preoofread their resumes.I realize people are feeling a lot of pressure and they start to panic–the worst thing they can do is get into a purely transactional mode of mass e-mail networking. It is so self-deceiving to push the send button a bunch of times a think you are networking.(refer to my Non-desperate networking blog) The only way to differentiate yourself in a flood of job seekers is to get personal, take the time to reconnect. (Slow down) This is the number one topic laid off execs get who receive outplacement services.
I have received this question hundreds of times. It usually pertains to going to an event, a reception, or a party. First of all why are you going to places where you know NO-ONE?!! Stop crashing parties and weddings! 😉 Clearly you know someone. Someone invited you, there is an affinity or a connection which put you there. That being said, know thyself. Meaning what is your appetite for uncertainty, for adventure, for surprises? Life is a box of chocolates……Or by contrast, do you want to have a lot more control, more of a defined strategy, more certainty? If you tend to be what I call a grazing shark at networking events, you know someone who finds the food table or bar and hovers and circles that area. Never engaging, hoping to connect, but giving the impression they are going somewhere–back to the food. The grazing sharks never really networks, they look aggressive but actually are harmless and just eats a lot!
I will assume you relate to the grazing shark and want more certainty in your networking experience.
- First things first–your brief introductory talk– your BIT— how you introduce yourself and what you want are clear in your mind. So starting the conversation is a breeze.
- Prepare–What is this event you are going to? Think about who might be there, who you might want to me meet, and who invited you. Even google folks so you are up to speed on what is the latest on the people, their employers, their facebook, etc
- Don't go alone–Networking is a contact sport and a team sport. Bring a colleague, friend, relative. Be a tag team. It would better if your tag team member knows at least one person at the event. You head directly to the one person you know and the the dance begins. Find out who they know and who you do not know or if they know the person you want to meet. If the person is one of the hosts of the event, then you are in luck because you can find out who is at this thing, how she knows them and then ask to be introduced. The key here is go to a hub of the event or create one by figuring out the connections of your connection! The deal you have with your tag team member is anyone who your team meets individually gets introduced to the other, and you find out who they know and the beat goes on. Here is an excerpt from my blog remembering names and faces-Tag Team: It can be much easier to meet people and remember them when you work as a team. Let me explain. Clue your friend or partner at an event to come to your rescue when the name forgetting thing starts to happen. Seeing you have no idea who this person is, your partner sticks out their hand and introduces themselves, and say "Don't think we have met, I am….." When the mystery person introduces themselves you have their name! And then you look brilliant. My wife Sarah has rescued me more than a few times!
- Don't be late–Arrive early–Being "fashionably late" is great if you know people!When you arrive late it is much harder to meet people. Cliques form, conversations are well under way, and breaking in is intimidating and tough–especially for the less courageous. So when you arrive earlier (you do not need to be there first) you have a chance to join or form a group, you get to meet the other early arrivers and that is always easier. If this is a corporate event/reception, you have a much better chance to meet the VIPs and the speaker, then waiting until the end when everyone converges.
- Open your eyes and your brain–no filters–When you network, you meet people. If you are so focused you will only talk to people like you, or who agree with you, or can help you–then your networking experience will yield few results and you will remain trapped in your social and intellectual silo. The whole point is to expand your network and your mind! Quantity of connections is not your aim. Broadening your network with interesting people who share your interests and who have totally different interests is your objective. Dozens of studies have shown that people with larger and more diverse networks live longer and have fewer r illnesses.
- Find the joy–Networking, meeting people is fun. Make it a bit of a game with your tag team, then let the conversations dictate where you go.
Hopefully this type of prep gets you increasingly comfortable with the networking lifestyle. Don't try and do everything by yourself! Networking is about connections, so start by teaming up.