Networking is an over utilized buzzword these days. However, many people – present company included – fail to take full advantage of true networking opportunities. The concept is simple. The execution is difficult.
Allow me to share a recent success story.
A colleague recently asked if I would meet with her friend for an information interview. This is the first step where networking breaks down. Often people feel that they should only network “up” – i.e. only meet with people in positions they aspire to reach. I fundamentally disagree with this philosophy. Networking can happen “up”, “down” or “across” and each direction presents many benefits to both parties.
In this case, my colleague’s friend was looking to get back into the communications field. At the best of times, jobs are hard to come by in this industry. However, his interest was specifically in sports, which really narrows down the field.
We met at a coffee shop one morning for a 30-minute chat. He was new to the networking game and this was his first information interview. As a big believer in helping others break into the industry, I decided to offer some important networking tips in addition to answering questions about my job and the industry. These tips were passed down to me by many wonderful people who have taken the time to meet with me in the past. I will share two of my favourite tips:
First, I told him to follow up with me the next day via e-mail and to add me on LinkedIn as soon as possible. The follow-up is an important step because it starts a dialogue. I also told him to e-mail me every 4-6 weeks with updates to continue that dialogue. I noted that I might be too busy to respond to each update, but that the regular e-mails would keep him top of mind when job postings crossed my desk. Most of the good jobs are on the “hidden market” so it is extremely important to maintain contact down the road.
Second, I suggested he build a networking spreadsheet. This was one of the best pieces of advice I received from the Rotman School of Management. They provided me with an Excel file where I can track all my meetings, action items, follow-ups, notes, etc. I try to fill this out as soon as possible following a meeting, otherwise I forget important points of discussion and become lax in following up.
What transpired following our meeting was a best-case networking outcome.
I passed along his contact info to my wife who works in PR so that she could help introduce him to some people working in the sports side of the biz. While my wife was working on setting him up with some of her contacts, a job posting crossed her desk that was ideal. The posting was from our mutual friend Renee who was hiring at Rocket XL. I passed along the information right away.
Less than a week after our initial informational meeting had passed, I put him in touch with Renee who was hiring for a sports communications position.
At this point, my job as a connecter was done and the rest was up to him to seal the deal and get the job.
About a week later I received an e-mail stating that he had just finished his second interview with the company and was on the shortlist for the job. Included in the e-mail was a thank you for making the introduction.
Another week passed before receiving one of the best e-mails I have ever received. I found out that he had signed a contract to become a social media community manager working on a professional sports account. He had broken out of the comfort zone of his current job and found the job he desired. It was a win-win-win for him, Renee and for me, simply for the joy I felt for pairing two great people together.
- Never feel you are too big or too good to meet with someone
- Always view a situation from the point of view of how you can help someone else – if you do, good things may happen for you in the future
- Following up with contacts is as important or even more important than the initial meeting
- Keeping track of your meetings and staying organized will help you become a better networker