“Bob Smith” claimed to a friend of his that he knew everybody. And sure enough, every time the friend challenged Bob, he’d pick up the phone and have the President, the Queen of England or the Dali Lama on the line. Well, his friend finally said to him, “What about the Pope? I bet you don’t know the Pope.” So Bob and his friend flew to the AncientCity, and took their places in the plaza just before the weekly papal blessing. Bobheads on up, and, sure enough winds up waving right next to his Holiness on the balcony. Bob comes down and finds his friend being loaded into an ambulance. “What happened?” Bob asked. “Was the shock of seeing me with Pope too great?” His friend weakly replied, “No. It was when the guy next to me nudged me and asked me who the guy was up there next to Bob Smith?”
Many of my clients were almost this well connected when they came to me- but weren’t getting the desired results. A short “diagnostic” usually showed me the reason. They were failing in one of several areas to truly “make the connection.” Here are some of things I would usually see and correct.
1). They were doing the wrong kind of networking. Business networking and social networking are alike in some ways and different in others. Business networking gets right to the point. Social networking requires some finesse and sensitivity.
This is not to say that you can be a bull in a china shop or insensitive when business networking, but, let’s face it – when you’re trying to get someone to go out with you socially the stakes and strategies are a bit different than when you’re trying to simply exchange information or enter a business relationship.
2). They’d be tense, angry or anxious. It is said that animals pick up fear and attack. Other networkers, whether targets for your job search, business contact or marital bliss, pick up on desperation and run away. Make sure that you’re in a relaxed state to network in any situation.
3). They wouldn’t “close the deal.” Meeting someone is nice. Following up with the people you meet is actually effective. Funny, but some networkers seem to believe that the act of shaking hands and exchanging business cards will magically produce the results they’re looking for. This is a myth that should be immediately busted.
4). They’d be “on the make” in business situations. Business is business and personal is personal. There was one couple at a business networking event my wife and I attended who really needed to get a room. Both got an unwanted reputation that evening, hurting the careers of both. If you meet someone to whom you are attracted at a business event, either leave the event then and there or make an agreement to meet afterwards, but don’t flirt or “make out” at the business event. If it isn’t clear that the attraction is mutual, wait until you have a chance to speak completely in private before broaching the subject of a personal relationship rather than doing this at a business event.
And, men. Keep your eyes above neck level on women. Yes. Always.
5). They weren’t getting in, getting out and moving on. We’ve all been trapped by the dreaded networking nerd. Maybe, heaven forefend, you are the dreaded networking nerd. The networking nerd is that guy (yes, it’s usually a guy) who will trap you in a corner and talk non-stop about him or herself for hours on end until your eyes bulge out of your head and sweat pours from your forehead and your feet burn from standing.
Be rude if you must. Push past this jerk and move on. Interrupt and tell him that you promised yourself you’d meet ten people that evening. If a woman, and you can’t get by this idiot, firmly plant your high heel in his instep. If you see a friend in trouble with this person, take pity and go rescue them. Make sure not to get caught yourself! And next time you see this person at a networking event (and you will, because they go to every event and never give anything to anyone), dive under a table or something to get away from this person.
6). They spend too much time on small talk. You don’t know how much time you have. Don’t waste it in small talk. Get to the point. Give your elevator speech. Find out what the other individual is there for. Exchange cards. Move on.
7). They were talking to friends or colleagues. You know your friends and colleagues. Forget them. You’re at a networking event to meet new people. So get out and meet new people. Say “hi” for 2 minutes to people you know. But don’t even think about sitting at a table with friends. Explain that you’re there to meet new people and suggest getting together after the event for a drink or a midnight snack, but avoid your friends like the plague. They’ll destroy your networking.
8). They didn’t understand the value of networking. Almost all decent jobs at every level are gotten by networking, not resumes, not headhunters, not job boards, and not knocking on doors. Too many people don’t take networking seriously. Take it seriously. Your livelihood depends on it.
9). They didn’t have a large enough network. If you don’t have at least 350 people who will call you back tomorrow with help, you don’t have a network. You have golfing buddies. If you don’t have this, and you are trying to find a job, don’t be stupid. Buy into a network with a transition coach or networking club. Expect it to cost about one month’s salary. It will save you, on the average, several month’s salary of looking time. Don’t be cheap and don’t be a procrastinator. The smartest thing you can do as soon as you get laid off is to go buy a network. It will get you re-employed much more rapidly than if you’re an arrogant SOB and think you can do it on your own. You can’t and you won’t. You’ll just waste tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid salary and get frustrated burning money and time, as well as lose tons of opportunity. A word to the wise.
10). They didn’t keep up their network once employed. Other than peeing away precious time trying to build a network themselves right after getting laid off, the most absurd thing people do is let their network lapse after they get employed. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Do people think that they’re never going to be laid off again? That the economy is not going to tank again? Duh! Keep up your network and expand it, people! Keep your head out of your behinds and do something intelligent for your career for once. Keep up your network every week.
These ten tips will help keep you on track in your networking events.