Networking Success: Always Be Networking

Welcome to the first part of a two-part blogpost on networking; this first one is in regards to our new Networking Motto “Always Be Networking” (ABN) and illustrates the meaning behind it using a recent example of networking success in a rather surprising situation.

The second post, due out later this week, expands on this first idea and will discuss a range of other powerful networking ideas that can be summed up with a helpful mnemonic. Stay tuned!

Part I: The Power of ABN in Action

The idea of “Always Be Networking” (ABN) came up in conversation with a friend a few weeks ago in response to me attending a college football-watching party and somehow discussing Google interview questions with several school alumni (at one point, I actually had most of our table trying to answer an infamous query instead of watching a close game!). Apparently, I have been living the “Always Be Networking” lifestyle without even knowing it.

In short, ABN refers to the idea that opportunities to meet people who may somehow impact your career (and vice-versa) can show up in almost any situation. In this case, I was at the party to cheer on my husband’s team and take a break from work; I was not there to discuss my services, client successes, recent site re-launch or anything else related to ReFresh Your Step; that said, it happened and I didn’t mind. Apparently, the ABN lifestyle can include nachos smothered in cheese.

I’ve had networking on my mind recently as I prepared last week for a presentation (more on that in the next post); in taking a break from work and presentation prep early last week, my husband and I sat and watched the second Presidential debate. I was expecting political repartee and the occasional misspoken word by at least one of the candidates. What I was not expecting, however, was to see flashing, pulsating lights floating above our patio. Without even thinking about it, I headed outside to explore and was surprised to see an actual (toy-sized) UFO actually buzzing about overhead. Sadly, little green men were not controlling it; rather, an engineer who hates his current sales job was using his iPhone to fly his early Christmas gift. How do I know all of this? I asked. Here’s a summary of that conversation:

 

Me: “That’s so cool–where did you get it?”

Job-Hating Engineer (JHE): “It’s from Sharper Image and an early Christmas gift from my parents. I’m an engineer and love this stuff.”

Me: “Ah, I’ve worked with engineers before. What exactly do you do?”

JHE: “What do you do that you’ve worked with engineers?”

Me: “I’m a career advisor and have written resumes for several types of engineers, including a few aeronautical engineers and a NASA guy. That’s a great field you’re in.”

JHE: “I REALLY need to talk to you–I hate my job. I love engineering but somehow got into sales and really want to get back to my original path. Do you have a card?”

 

Never mind the fact that I was the opposite of professional-looking in that moment; I spoke professionally, engaged him in conversation, produced a few cards and returned to my debate-watching, all within a matter of minutes. Other than missing the original “binders full of women” comment, seizing the opportunity to speak with someone (even about the most random of topics–flying UFOs outside my window) truly epitomizes the official ReFresh Your Step networking creed of “Always Be Networking” (ABN). Tune in for our next post as we actually go over our handy (and rather happy) mnemonic for networking success, as well as a few extra tips to help our more introverted followers.

Until then, ABN!

Professional Networking Explained in 5 Minutes

Have you ever been curious about what professional networking is, how it works and what makes it truly effective? Have you ever found yourself in a crowded room or other event and seen THAT person who can literally speak to anyone, about any topic, and wonder how he or she does it?

The truth is, networking is a skill and, like most skills, requires time, practice, energy and even a little luck (sports stars practice all the time but require luck to achieve those last-second, game-winning scores). There are some tips and tricks, one of which is crucial and we will share with you shortly.

First, though, networking (in a professional sense) is simply the act of speaking with another person (or group of people, as the case may be) and swapping information while mentally cataloguing how that other person may be of service to you in the future and, if done correctly, how you may be able to assist him or her (I mention the “if done correctly” part on purpose: networking is meant be a two-way street).

Now that you know what networking IS, I want to explain what networking IS NOT (and this is vital):

  • Networking is not asking someone for a job
  • Networking is not asking for an interview
  • Networking is not asking for someone to hire your spouse/child/best friend/second-cousin-twice-removed-whom-you-think-is-awesome

What makes networking effective? Simply stated: Just talking. That sounds easy enough, right? Someone says something (hopefully, it’s something relevant), the other person forms thoughts so that coherent words/phrases/sentences tumble out in response to the original point; the first speaker then gives his/her response or another person pipes up. Around and around you go with your networking mate(s), delving deeper into whatever topic is on hand, hoping that the conversation either continues to flow or at least does not stall in some awkward way (I’ve not dated in a long time but this sounds a lot like what my single friends tell me about dating life).

Regardless, this is the gist of networking. But what makes it effective? Beyond the “time/practice/energy/luck” components I mentioned earlier, networking becomes truly effective when one goes beyond the topical niceties we all use in these situations (“My name is Emily Kapit and I am the Lead Strategist and Head Resume Writer for a career advisory company” is my schtick).

The act of networking is great for getting the basics on someone; the real magic happens when you take it a few steps further and connect with a person. Connecting means finding a common ground to talk about, one that may or may not pertain to the topic (“You know, I think we parked at the same time and I saw you have North Carolina plates–I actually grew up in North Carolina! Are you from there or did you just recently move from there?”).

You would be shocked–shocked–how much more effective connecting is over networking; additionally, and this can sound counter-intuitive at first, I often find connecting with others is easier than networking. Why? Networking can often feel limiting to a specific topic, career-wise or other; connecting, on the other hand, is limitless. You can discuss nearly anything under the sun (though, especially in an election year, please watch the political topics).

There you go–not only did today’s post cover the basics of networking but now you know what networking is not as well as how you can be a really effective networker (by connecting with people instead). Of course, networking is now often done in cyber-space so please take the connecting idea to this internet realm as well. LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are all amazing sites for making…connections.

Bonus Question 1) “What if  I am a little on the shy/introverted side? How do I make networking work for me?” Honestly, the best answer is practice (I’d like to suggest a little bit of “liquid courage” but that seems less than professional of me). In all seriousness, please do practice–try networking/connecting with people in your comfort zones and expand from there. Similar to interviewing, having the initial networking conversations with a loved one or close friend can be great practice for the real thing.

Bonus Question 2) “I like the idea of ‘Connecting with people’–where can I learn more about this?” If you are in the South Florida area, Lead Career Strategist & Head Resume Writer, Emily Kapit MS, CPRW, will be speaking on this exact topic at the Emerge Broward event on Thursday, October 18. Please message her ([email protected]) for more information or visit the event’s Facebook page (http://tinyurl.com/cztlnsm). If you are not in the South Florida area, please email Emily ([email protected]), as she would be happy to speak to you ad nauseum on the topic.