As I have mentioned in previous posts, I was active in a networking group called, I Know Somebody Houston (IKSH). Now that I’ve relocated to Nashville, I’ve been looking for a new group to start rebuilding my professional network. My standards are pretty high because of how effective IKSH is at helping new members share their story to the group and find a like-minded connection.
This week I attended a meeting for the Levo League Nashville Chapter. This is a group of young women that make networking fun because it’s socially driven. For people that are intimidated by the concept of networking, this laid back, fun approach is for you.
It was a Happy Hour event that was very casual and geared towards getting to know each other. As you build on the connection, then you can see what areas you’re able to help each other. What I liked is that this event made everyone feel relaxed, they weren’t focused on trying to pitch themselves but on building genuine relationships.
I had a really interesting conversation with one of the leaders of the group Amanda Mishelle, a wardrobe stylist. She was sharing with me how she’s very excited about her new assessory line she just launched called NASHchic. During our conversation, I mentioned to her that I was very passionate about working on the new phase of a product launch event. She was so supportive that she has already offered to give me connections with industry professionals to test the product. I wasn’t expecting everyone to be so generous since I had just joined the group.
The Levo League has chapters in various cities around the U.S. If you’re a young woman that likes a laid back approach to build your professional network, I would highly recommend you check them out.
When I ask people how they feel about networking, typically they have a negative response. The majority of people say it makes them feel uncomfortable and awkward. Another problem is that they leave a networking event with 15 business cards and don’t know what to do with them. Here’s some advice to ease the anxiety about networking. I usually ask questions that center around these categorizes: interests, desires/goals, and needs. This makes it easier to break the ice because people enjoy talking about topics they’re interested in discussing.
Interests: In the last post, I discussed asking people about something they’re currently working on that they’re passionate about instead of asking what they do. Some other questions you could ask are, what causes/charities are you interested in? What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Desires/Goals: What are some career goals you would like to accomplish? If you’re attending a conference, what are you hoping to gain from attending this conference?
Needs: What challenge is your top priority to get resolved in your business/career? What brought you to this event?
When you exchange business cards, if there isn’t a picture of the person on the card, on the back write down a brief description of their appearance. Also, write down one interesting they said during the conversation and a possible common interest. This will help you to determine which people that it could be beneficial to follow up with after the event and remember what was said during the conversation. Before you call them, make sure to look them up on Linkedin to discern if there are some other ways you can bring value to each others careers.
One of the first questions we ask a person after meeting them is, “What do you do?” The reason this question is so important is because our culture places value on people based on their profession. People put so much emphasis on their career, that if they become unemployed, they feel as though they lack an identity.
Here’s the problem with making judgments about a person’s status or value based on their profession. We can miss out on where that person is headed or the potential they have. A janitor could aspire to start their own janitorial business or be a talented artist that’s working a job until their art is able to bring in a consistent income. We could miss out on a diamond in the rough.
Instead, a better question is what’s something you’re working on that you’re passionate about? By asking this question, you can learn more interesting parts of a person’s story and what they’re really about. I have a friend that does billing for healthcare companies but on the side she’s an entrepreneur that aspires to get a product sold in stores. When I met her, I asked her this question and she told me about her product. I loved the idea so much that I offered to help her figure out how to launch her product.
If I had asked her what’s your profession, she probably would have told me that she works in medical billing and most likely that would have been the end of the conversation. Both of us would have missed out on what we have in common and how we could help each other.
I challenge you the next time you’re networking or meeting someone new, ask them what’s something you’re working on that you’re passionate about? It will probably be a more interesting conversation and you never know, a connection could come out of it.
In recent conversations, I’ve discovered that the “Hidden Job Market” is truly hidden because a lot of people have never heard of it. That’s why I want to give this information to as many people as I can. Recent stats show that up to 80% of jobs are not advertised. Employers would rather save time and money by hiring suitable candidates within the company or getting referrals from current employees.
So how do you find out about these job openings? I read a Forbes article that recommends a few key tips.
- Make networking a practice, not just something you do when you need a job. Make a point to regularly contact former colleagues and make new LinkedIn connections so you can stay in the loop about new job openings in your network. Also, you have to be willing to give in order to get, so share information with others so they will in turn want to give information to you.
- Tell people the specific jobs you’re looking for, follow up the conversation with an email and find out if they can introduce you to any hiring managers or other decision makers.
- Build your network by joining professional networking groups and going to conferences. I’ve gone into specific detail in previous posts about how to be effective at networking events for those that cringe at the idea of networking at big events.
- If you have a specific company in mind, see if any of your LinkedIn connections have contacts at that company first to set up an introduction. If all else fails, be bold and contact the hiring manager at the company you want to work for directly. Email or call to introduce yourself and explain how your background and experience would be useful there. This way, even if the place currently has a hiring freeze, you’ll be top of mind when positions do open up.
There are millions of jobs in the Hidden Job Market that are just waiting for you. I hope these tips help you to be proactive in leveraging your connections to tap into these career opportunities.
Traditional networking can be intimidating. I’ve discussed previously why traditional networking doesn’t usually generate beneficial results. I’ll use a personal example of how I determine when to initiate a networking conversation.
I was in a women’s group and there were some very influential women in this group. I would have liked to make a connection with some of these women but I didn’t know how to network with them. So what do I mean by “network” with them? I mean bring value to their professional career. When people go to networking events, they’re looking for people that can add value to their career. During the initial conversation they ask questions to find out if you can enhance what they’re doing and if not they won’t follow up after the conversation. The effective way to network with people that you currently don’t have a career connection with is to gradually build a rapport with them over time organically.
The mistake people make when networking is that they try to force a connection with someone that can help them but they offer no value to that person. When you do this, you come across desperate because the interest isn’t mutual. Just like when a person is too aggressive while perusing a person romantically that isn’t interested.
In my last post, I discussed being motivated out of fear versus out of love. Desperation wreaks of fear. When you’re motivated to connect with someone because you fear not getting their help, they can sense your desperation and are turned off. The effective way to network is to know what value you bring when going into a conversation and if the other person doesn’t see your significance, you’re okay with it and mutually part ways. When you connect with people from a place of love, you only want to partner with people that see your worth.
I’ve focused most of my posts on networking to find connections that can help elevate you towards achieving your goals but it would be irresponsible of me not to warn you that at some point you’ll need to weed out the bad connections from the good. As I’ve mentioned previously, building a team around you that has synergy towards a common goal takes investing the time to cultivate relationships, and establishing trust. During this period, there will likely be people that initially seemed like a good connection but don’t meet your expectations as you see their character and commitment wane over a period of time.
So after several months of interacting with people you’re considering as core connections, take an audit of the relationship. Is the relationship balanced, meaning are they contributing regularly or constantly depleting your time, energy, and resources? What kind of influence are they on you, does being around them bring out the best or worst in you? Do they believe in your talents and encourage you or do they diminish your ideas and disparage your abilities? After conducting a relationship audit periodically you will know if a once good connection is shifting into a bad connection.
I’ve heard people say that it’s hard to cut people off because of the fear of hurting their feelings. It’s a difficult task to break up with people just like breaking off a bad romantic relationship. If the relationship is completely dysfunctional then you must immediately remove yourself from the situation. Otherwise, you can gradually break ties with them by setting up healthy boundaries and distancing interaction with them over time if the direct approach isn’t your style.
This is the time of year to be around family and go to Christmas parties but don’t forget that these events are a great opportunity to network. Since these are social gatherings, I wouldn’t suggest a full pitch of your services or career goals, instead look for common connections during your conversations that could lead to a potential collaborative opportunity with them or perhaps someone they know.
When you are around people you already have established a relationship with it’s a good time to reconnect and during your conversation see if they have a need in a specific area that you have the solution for or if they have a skill set that you can collaborate together on any particular career needs. Here’s a personal example, someone could give me some graphic design work and I could help them expand their business network.
Since I’m a career/networking coach when I socialize with people at some point in the conversation I ask them if they enjoy their current job or what are some future career goals they have. If I see an opening, I can offer the a free consultation to see if I can help them come up with a strategy to meet their goals. If there isn’t an opening, I ask if they know someone that needs help establishing, changing or advancing their career. Also, you can create referral networks where you offer them $50 for every legitimate client they help you secure. You never know what resources you can tap into from holiday gatherings so take it easy on the eggnog and network.