One of the members of our Tuesday group brought a book to our group last week that brought a bunch of ideas together for me and added some new ones that fundamentally change how I think networking should be done. It’s stuff that I’ve vaguely thought, and haphazardly tried, but have always thought was what I shouldn’t do.
Networking events have always felt like middle school dances. You know the ones, the boys are on one side and the girls are on the other, (substitute recruiters and job seekers) and each side spends pretty much the entire night talking about how much success they always have with the other side, just not venturing forth and testing those waters. ;)
I'm starting to follow a new blog, it's on my list: Bella Domain. This is by the person who wrote I’m at a Networking Event, Now What? -- Sandy Jones-Kaminski. In the book, she postulates that the focus of networking events should not be “What can you do for me?” She proposes that every networking event be approached as an opportunity to ask, “What can I do for you?” Things like passing out business cards aggressively are strongly discouraged, instead, listen to the answers people provide and only share your card with people you actually might be able to help. She suggests an attitude of “Pay it Forward” for the event. For those that missed the book and movie, pay it forward is the idea of doing something for someone else as a way of saying thank you for things that others have already done for you. Instead of paying back what you owe, pay it forward to the next person. Turns out there is even research suggesting that this is a more effective strategy when approaching others in a networking mode. Immediately, it allows for a focus on what others are doing, rather than prattling on about how great we are when we probably aren’t all that convinced of our value to begin with. Most of us can get very convinced of our ability to solve problems within our area, so when someone says, “I need help with…. And describes what we know about, we can get into problem solving mode in a heartbeat, and then we don’t need to tell people we’re super, we just demonstrate it. Way more fun!
At any rate, Sandy’s book is outstanding. It’s one of those books that brings together a bunch of well known information and comes up with a new conclusion that feels much better than what I thought previously and completely demystifies what was a very intimidating event.