Written by Gary Matsuda
You’re attending another networking meeting, looking forward to enjoying the drinks, the appetizers, the speakers. But then there are all those people, selling themselves, passing out business cards, evaluating you as a potential customer. Wouldn’t these meetings be great if it weren’t for all those pesky strangers?
Career Connectors founder, Jessica Pierce admits at first, networking was an unpleasant task, to be endured just to get the next job. However, after making hundreds of personal connections and helping others find work and get better jobs, she’s found that mastering the elements of networking are foundational to career success. As a result, Career Connectors is now the Phoenix area’s 4th largest networking organization in one of the most networked cities in country.
For a business to be built on networking and relationships, there must be something to it. Getting a job though relationships saves an employer time and money. Successful hires from referrals reduces their screening time and saves money they’d otherwise spend to recruit and pay for job postings. Recruiters can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000 and beyond per placement, depending on the type of job they’re filling.
That’s a lot of recruiting dollars you can save a company if you engage with the right people. But it also underscores the value employers place on having the right person on the team. That’s where networking has an edge. Hiring managers will want someone who has high potential to be a good fit for their culture. They’ll perform better, stay around longer and help boost team morale. Yet for employers and job seekers alike, it’s difficult to determine culture fit through an application, a website or LinkedIn profile – the best way to do that is through personal interaction.
Let’s look at Jessica’s solutions on becoming a better networker and increase our influence.
They got you at “Hello“
It can take just eight seconds for someone to pass judgement on you, that’s barely enough time to exchange greetings! Don’t blow it at the very start! There’s preparation needed to make a great impression that may lead you to a valuable connection. But where would you start if you don’t have an outgoing, high-energy personality? What if you prefer analysis and introspection rather than having to go around the room asking, ‘So, what do you do?’ Jessica provides a short assessment to help you get started and get better at networking.
Networking Assessment Worksheet (download)
Total up the points according to the boxes you checked off and rate yourself:
1060 – 150 Master Interactive Career Networker
750 – 105 Average Networker
0 – 75 Novice Networker
It doesn’t matter where you score right now, we all have work to do. Even master networkers can’t expect to hit it off with everyone they meet. When it comes to engaging different personalities and situations, even an expert will evaluate and practice to maintain their game.
Deep and Wide
Most of us have a network that’s larger than we think. The first of which is developmental, made up of those you already know, some quite well.
These include those you already have an existing relationship with and who are more likely to be willing to help but may not be able to directly. For example:
- Relatives/ Friends – parents, neighbors, cousins, childhood friends
- Community – doctors, volunteer services
- Activities – clubs, religious organizations, kid’s activities
- Academic – High school, college, professors, alumni
- Former employers – supervisors, colleagues, employees
Cultivate and deepen the already established relationships early so that you aren’t reaching out to them only when you need help, like needing a job. That could seem opportunistic. Keep these relationships fresh and reconnect if necessary.
You’ll also want to increase your influence by working on strategic relationships (can happen at networking meetings), who are more likely to give you a more significant step up or have direct access to the opportunities you want.
- Industry specific and/or open networking
- Networking Phoenix
- Career Connectors
- Arrive early stay late – because all the good networking happens at the end
You’re not done after the end of the event. Get at least 5 people to follow up with, if you feel you had a meaningful conversation. Don’t ask for a job (unless that’s what was discussed at your very first meeting), but connect with your leads assuming they will want to help if they can. Be specific in your ask so they are clear on how you can be helped.
Prepare your identity
Jessica also provided a helpful tool to help evaluate and organize your thoughts on paper. No pressure to get it exactly right. Like the assessment above, this can be used as a worksheet to help keep track of what might need improvement. Use a more presentable version of this to use at networking events (or even to formulate ideas for your resume or LinkedIn Profile).
Networking Brief (download)
- Profile or Summary
- Management or leadership skills
- Functional skill or SME
- Personal vision
- Target Positions/ industries/segments
- Target companies
“Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEO’s of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be the head marketer for the brand called YOU.”
– Tom Peters in Fast Company
If this seems like a lot of work, it is. But these tools and advice can build confidence in not only making a great first impression and getting your next job, but can be applied on the job as well! You’ll be known as the one who knows the right people, who can manage customers, suppliers and get along with teammates. Be the one who is a mentor or guide and adds value to others first.
Networking is a relationship building, give and take process. There’s no one- way selling here, which never works. Make things easier for others, create authentic value, especially areas where you feel gifted and you’ll find over time someone in your professional or social circle will reciprocate. Then you’ll know that you’ve truly increased your influence!
Colonial Life, Mark Marquez, District General Agent
Relieve stress, guide financial decisions, help people. While the word insurance doesn’t exactly excite people, those who work behind the scenes are stoked about helping others when they need it. When there’s a life and death situation who can people call? Their Colonial Life insurance agent, of course. Be someone who others can rely on in their time of need: apply to Colonial Life, a fast growing company with the goal of being the largest insurance company in the nation. Current positions available as representatives and sales.
AZ Dept. of Health Services, Key Bentley, HR Program Administrator
They really have the big picture in mind. This government organization helps to make sure individuals and community well-being are protected and improved by providing resources from womb to tomb. While carrying out their mission they also take care of their employees with generous compensation, medical benefits and more. Openings include Social Workers, Nutritionists, Medical Records and more.
U-Haul, Alex Taylor, Corporate Recruiter
Want to work in a mid-century historic building? U-Haul’s got a great work location in downtown Phoenix. While not stuck in the past, they keep the country moving with some of the latest IT technology to help them manage the largest truck fleet in the world. There are opportunities in every field: contact center, corporate, field work and IT.
Sheila Coulam, Vice President of Operations for Career Connectors, closed the formal part of the event and invited guests to participate in the informal sessions including talking directly to hiring managers and resume experts, finding educational opportunities, visiting Coaches Corner, and posing for a free head shot by a professional volunteer photographer. Also, thanks to GCU for the venue.
For details about upcoming Career Connectors events throughout the Valley, click here to visit the events section on the website for times, locations, and details about hiring companies and keynote topics.